Nestled along the border between China and Vietnam, citizens of different hill tribes gather once a year at the Khâu Vai “love market”, dating back to 1919. This market, 500km north of Hanoi, sees people in search of their future spouses. This incredible tradition arose from legends and stories of two lovers (a Nung boy and a Giay girl) whose family forbade their marriage. To avoid tribal conflict they were forced to part. Just as they decided to meet once a year on the 27th day of the third lunar month in a secret location, the Vietnamese continue with a similar ritual to this day. While the truth of these urban legends is unknown, the tradition lives on nonetheless. Travel to Vietnam can be intriguing!
While one may think that this market is mostly young men and women looking for a marriage, there are actually quite a few star-crossed lovers who use the market as a yearly meeting place to reunite with their forbidden lover much like the urban legend itself. Only if our relationship with our exes always had such a civil ending! Even in their old age, their yearly meetings at the love market keep their relationship alive. During the market, men and women dress in stunning bright colors so that they’ll be sure to stand out in the crowd. They also wear colorful hats or headdresses with intricate patterns.
The surrounding province of Méo Vac is also beautiful in its own right. The vibrant culture keeps the town brimming with excitement. If you are interested in traveling through the area, be mindful that you may need to obtain special permits to be allowed to travel throughout the area. However, for travel lovers who are addicted to mountain biking and uncovering truly unique adventures to travel Vietnam, Méo Vac is certainly worth going the extra mile.
The Mã Pí Lèng mountain pass offers one of Vietnam’s most remarkable views. It’s certainly a mountain biking experience that cyclists won’t soon forget! Meo Vac also hosts a livestock market every Sunday where local farmers can sell or trade their cattle, goats, and pigs. This is a great opportunity to get an authentic view of daily life within the region. You’ll also be able to see the women dressed in the multicolored attire you’d find them wearing at the love market.
Even if you never have a chance to see the love market in person, learning about the rich history and culture that northern Vietnam has to offer will allow you to see the country with new eyes. While you should certainly not miss out on seeing some of the larger cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, consider taking an excursion to the countryside. The lush mountains will feel like escaping into another world, and you may even meet a modern day Romeo and Juliet during your stay.