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Written by Keith Hancock
What is the history of the Sapa Love Market?
The story of the Love Market in Sapa is one that is very old and spans numerous eras and just by this story alone, one can get a sense of the wonderful warmth and intricacies of Vietnamese society and culture.
As per this very old story, every Saturday night local tribesmen would make their way into Sapa town from a hard week’s work in the surrounding mountains. This was an opportunity for them to relax and unwind whilst buying and selling their goods and produce. At the same time, this was an opportunity for them to use this market for a more emotional purpose – finding love!
Given that these tribesmen wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to interact with the opposite sex in their day to day lives in the mountains, the Love Market in Sapa proved to be their main outlet for meeting and interacting with tribeswomen. The same also held true for the tribeswomen who under the pretence of selling their handicrafts and showcasing their weaving and dressmaking skills, would stand in the market in the hopes of finding their Prince Charming.
What then transpired each Saturday night could well be the most elaborate courting experience with the tribesmen playing their musical instruments as a way to entice and woo the women of their dreams. Meanwhile, if a woman took to fancying one of the tribesmen she would start singing to the tune of the music being played by him – thus affirming the mutual interest. And so began one love story after another.
What is the Love Market experience like today?
Over the years, with the influx of tourists the Love Market has definitely become more commercial and the courtship performances have slightly lost a bit of their innate intimacy. So a typical Saturday night at the Love Market will now allow you to see the traditional courtship scene being played out with lighting, microphones and the like on a stage in the public square. That said if you look close enough you will definitely still see more genuine cases as well.
In either case though, by the time you leave you will leave knowing that the Love Market does remain a social melting pot for the community. Around the fringes of the festivities locals will still parade themselves, perform songs or dances, promote their handiwork, or just shout at each other in the hope of catching some attention from the opposite sex.
Whilst the ‘love’ part of the market primarily happens on Saturday nights, the selling side of the market is permanently set up to cater for tourists and offers traditional handicrafts alongside a wide variety of more modern-day items such as watches, belts, and toys.
So regardless of what or how one interprets ‘love’, one thing remains certain: the Love Market is still very much a focal point to the interactions and socialising of the mountain tribes. As such then, the Love Market is the perfect place for you to see and experience Sapa at its most primal and intimate level when you go trekking in the area.
Soul Searching in Sapa
Speaking of trekking then, Sapa is truly God’s gift to all trekkers in the world – that’s the best way to describe Sapa in the fewest possible words. Whilst the Love Market allows you to find a potential soul mate, Sapa overall is the ultimate place to find yourself, to find your own soul.
Sitting majestically overlooking a picturesque valley and towering mountains on all sides, Sapa is the gateway to another world. With its beautiful scenery and mysterious cultures, one can easily forget life and all its troubles, thus losing oneself to this ‘other world’.
About 1,500 odd meters above sea level, Sapa lies within the Hoang Lien Son mountain range – commonly referred to as the ‘Tonkinese Alps’ – at the northwester part of Vietnam where its borders meet with China. Sapa itself is a small-ish village such that you can easily work your way through the whole town on foot but for the surrounding areas and villages near Sapa, be sure to have good trekking boots, a walking stick as well as a spare pair of clothing (as there is every chance the clothes you have on will be drenched in a heavy downpour).Most of the trekking routes around Sapa are marked quite clearly so even if you’re going on a solo trek the chances of you getting lost are very slim.
However if trekking is not your thing or you just want to put your feet up and unwind, there are countless spots in Sapa where you can just sit back and enjoy the view of the wonderful scenery on offer. And if nothing else, you can easily wind away numerous hours sitting on the banks of Sapa Lake as you look across to the mountains in the distance.



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