Ha Lau market is on the border between Quang Ninh and Lang Son. The market provided a place to trade, meet others, and have fun at a time when transportation was still underdeveloped. After years of decline, the market is busy again every Sunday.
Tang Si Mui of the Dao Thanh Y ethnic group sells vegetables grown in her own garden. She comes very early to set up her stall.
“I’m really happy at the market. My home-grown fruits and vegetables always sell out. I hope Ha Lau market will survive so ethnic people can learn more about the culture of other groups. Tourists also love this place,” Mui said.
The locals sell vegetables, wild honey, leaf-extracted yeast wine, knives, machetes, embroidered ethnic clothing, and other goods. Cultural rites of the Dao Thanh Y ethnic people are often recreated at the market.
Vi Duc Phuc, Chairman of Ha Lau commune’s People’s Committee, told VOV, “This market session often features art and sports activities organized by the Tay and Dao people. Ha Lau market was revived to preserve local culture and boost people’s incomes, thus encouraging production and developing the local economy.”
Food and colorful ethnic costumes make this market intriguing. Two highlights are the recreation of “Cap Sac”, a coming-of-age ritual for Dao boys and the recreation of the “Ruoc dau” (meeting the bride and bringing her home) ritual. Visitors can join locals in a stick-pushing game and then enjoy some humped sticky rice cakes.
Vu Thi Loan of Ha Long city said, “This is the first time I’ve been to an ethnic market. I really enjoy the mountain landscape and the ethnic culture. Local people are friendly to visitors no matter where they’re from.”
Pham Van Hoai, Vice Chairman of the Tien Yen district People’s Committee, said cultural preservation is the core of economic development in Tien Yen district.
“We have devised a plan to preserve and promote our ethnic culture. Restoring Ha Lau is part of it. We consider cultural preservation the key to economic development because it’s our distinctive culture that attracts tourists, who come to explore it and consume our products,” said Hoai.
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