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Hmong flavors are alive and well at this tribal market in Vietnam’s Central Highlands

Sunday, February 07, 2021, 11:20 GMT+7
Hmong flavors are alive and well at this tribal market in Vietnam’s Central Highlands
A Hmong woman chooses an outfit at a stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre

At four hours by motorbike from the central highland city of Da Lat, Dak R’Mang Market may not be the easiest foodie pilgrimage in Vietnam, but it may be one of the most unique.

Over the years, Dak R’Mang Market has become central Vietnam’s home of the Hmong people – an ethnic minority originally from the country’s north.

Several years ago, Dak R’Mang Market was merely a weekly gathering of a few Hmong vendors in the center of the town. 

As the weekly gathering began to attract more and more Hmong, authorities ceded a 1,000 square meter plot for the market.

Now, every Sunday, over 600 Hmong households from Dak Glong District in Dak Nong Province, as well as other nearby localities, gather at the Dak R’Mang Market to sell fresh produce, pedal handmade goods, connect with friends, and even find romance.  

A bird’s eye view of Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A bird’s eye view of Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre

Perhaps the biggest draw of Dak R’Mang Market is the eye-catching traditional dress of the Hmong people, with members of each Hmong tribe identifiable by the patters on their outfits.

Black Hmong, for example, don mostly black clothing with simple patterns while the Flower Hmong opt for a more flamboyant color palate.

Hmong people still favor their traditional dress over the fast fashion that is so prevalent throughout the society.

A Hmong outfit made with a sewing machine costs VND400,000 -1.5 million ($17-$65) while an outfit made entirely by hand will set customers back VND4-5 million ($174-216).

Of course, no Hmong outfit is complete without Hmong artisanal jewelry. The stalls at Dak R’Mang teem with silver necklaces and earrings, produced for mothers to gift their daughters before weddings.

Women in Hmong clothing at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
Women in Hmong clothing at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre

But Dak R’Mang isn’t all about fashion. The rich smell of Pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) and Thang Co – a mixture of animal meats and viscera simmered on a large wok – waft through the back of the market where groups of men huddle of warm meals and shots of rice wine.

Nearby, Hmong women snacks on men men – a dish prepared from steamed corn meal, also a children’s favorite.

Le Van Dai, chairman of the Dak R’Mang Commune People’s Committee, explained that the market is a home-away-from-home for the rich cultural heritage of ethnic minorities from the north.

The Dak Nong Province is currently mulling plans to rebrand Dak R’Mang Market as a tourist site in order to expose more people to the beauty of Hmong culture.

A Hmong food stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A Hmong food stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A toy stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A toy stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A toy stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A toy stall at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A vendor sells Hmong clothing at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A vendor sells Hmong clothing at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A woman in Hmong clothing at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
A woman in Hmong clothing at Dak R’Mang Market in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
The mountains of Dak Glong District of Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
The mountains of Dak Glong District of Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre

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