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Si Ma Cai

Si Ma Cai
Si Ma Cai is not a famous tourist destination however it's attraction is by no means less than Sapa or Bac Ha. Si Ma Cai district is 27km from Bac Ha, 98km from Lao Cai City and 135km from Sapa. Si Ma Cai is not as frequented as Bac Ha or Sa Pa, also located in the mountainous province, since it is nestled at the far end of a road near the border with China. Traveling there requires visitors to hold onto their hats and their seats either in a car or on a motorcycle for nearly 40 kilometers of bumpy, winding road from Bac Ha.

Mountain adventurers like to compare Si Ma Cai in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai to a shy lass with discrete charms sleeping in the mountain as the beauty of the little-known village lies in the quiet and simple daily lives of different peoples.

The name Si Ma Cai means “ horse market” in H’mong language and old peoples said that it was the biggest horse market of the region. Local people explain that Si Ma Cai means horse market or a place where horses are tied. However, Mong people like to talk about Si Ma Cai as a place for legendary horses whose steps resound on the hills and mountains of the region. Of course, there are no legendary horses in Si Ma Cai now, but visitors can hear the steps of horses pleasantly mingling with the footsteps of ethnic peoples on a long trip from the hills and mountains to the village’s central market, particularly on Sunday.

However, life is changing fast and horses are not the only purchasing objects nowadays.

The market place is simply a large ground near the recently developed town let of Simacai District with some thatched huts built to accommodate shops and food stalls. Every Sunday, Simacai market attracts some thousands of Flower H’mong, Zao, Phu La peoples from villages in the region come to shopping, enjoying themselves meeting friends and relatives…after hard working days. They spend most of their time at the market talking, chatting and also drinking a lot.

In recent years, the charms of Si Ma Cai have been awakened and have become attractive to travelers due to the flower-colored clothes of the Mong and Red Dao ethnic peoples, by the greenery of mountains and hills, and by the legends.

The quiet Si Ma Cai bustles on Sunday as Mong, Dao and other ethnic peoples arrive from different directions for a hill-tribe market. There, they buy and sell meat, vegetables, fruit, clothes and other necessities of life as well as swap fun stories after a week of hard work.

The Si Ma Cai market remains distinct to its origins since locals sell what they harvest from the forest and business is just a matter for locals, no traders bring items from Hanoi or elsewhere.


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