The Love Market is a little old place where we can GET TOGETHER! 
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OK, maybe that’s just one for the millenials. But the B52s lyrics to ‘Love Shack’ would also nicely suit our Moc Chau Love Market. And for all its changes over the years and decades, this technicolor tribal festival is still all about people…getting together!



Photos by Mike Stanbury – Vietnam in Focus

Moc Chau Love Market

The Love Market’s origins are rather murky, but it’s known to have been running in Moc Chau for at least 30 years. Traditionally, it’s been an opportunity for Hmong people from the surrounding areas to meet up, pair up and catch up with old flames. As our friend Mr Quyet – a Thai minority man running our favorite ecolodge – told us over a few rice wines: ‘Back in the old days, you’d wander through town and find Hmong people drunk and hugging all over the place. It was really embarrassing.’

Nowadays, the festival is more organized, including a program of cultural performances. But young faces and styles dominate. Hmong teens mix their traditional attire with Ray-Bans and TikTok caps. The girls favor stilettos and platform shoes to go with their patterned tunics. Everyone seems to be either posting, scrolling or checking their eyeliner. And yet among the youth, we still glimpse the older generation, their textiles also bright, their faces wrinkled with time and laugh-lines.

Photos by Lavonne Bosman – Vietnam in Focus


And there’s plenty to do and see. In the afternoon, we watched a football game in the town stadium, between two local villages. Or rather, the locals watched and we photographed them watching. Because the interest here is in seeing how tribal people play, how they spend time together – which is different to the often staged ‘authenticity’ in touristy destinations like Sapa. And it was certainly wild, rivalrous, and lots of fun. Many of the spectators livestreamed the game using selfie sticks, especially the joyful pitch invasion at the end.


Moc Chau football fans. Photos by Alex Sheal – Vietnam in Focus


In search of peace, we headed out to the tea plantations near town to catch sunset. Moc Chau is famous for its agricultural produce, but it has stunning scenery too – soft, downy hills and misty valleys. As the sun dropped, a few locals and Vietnamese visitors joined us to shoot the changing light over the tea fields.


Photos by Mike Stanbury (left) and Cristian Sorega (right)- Vietnam in Focus

We returned to the festival at nightfall, and the streets were more packed than ever, ablaze with carnival lights. That old vibe was back, or had never gone, and I was sure I even heard the B52s blasting out of a cotton candy stall. Time to repair to Mr Quyet’s ecolodge in the tea hills, and hear more stories about the old days over a few rice wines…
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