Loving Bac Ha
The next day was the market in Bac Ha, the little city that I loved even more, the longer I stayed. This market had more for tourists than yesterdays Can Lao market, but was still a simple place with most of the commerce happening between local people. I got rather obsessed with the beauty of the women and girls and their costumes, in particular their leg wrappings. Most of them did not mind my taking photos. (I never take a photo if someone indicates they do not want me to.)
Since I was staying right near the market I could spend the entire day going from one area to the next and back again. I could stop and try some food, bargain for some items and wander about. The smells were rich and pungent the sight varied and exciting.
I had a good time buying items for my store. It is a rewarding challenge to pick out some items you like and then bargain with people who may not share any language. I find a note pad, a calculator and a calm, willing attitude work well.
Travel Tip: A good way to start bargaining is to inquire about the same item from a few people to get the price range for what is being asked and then thinking ahead what you might be willing to pay (often 40-60% less than original asking price). In most cultures it is considered impolite to start bargaining if you do not intend to buy the item. That does not mean you cannot walk away if you don’t get a price you are satisfied with, but it is uncool to talk down multiple vendors and not buy. When bargaining, people can get quite animated and dramatic, which is great, but stay calm and in good humor. Inexperienced shoppers sometimes get flustered and agitated which is unfortunate cause it can be a lot of fun. If a vendor is really aggressive or annoying, just walk away as there is almost always a better deal somewhere else.
I spent the whole day wandering the market and nearby streets. One of my favorite, but very simple meals I had, was multicolored sticky rice served on a leaf with some salty, ground peanuts as a garnish. I loved the gal and her friend that served it to me and sat with them for a while.