Si Ma Cai is not as frequented as Bac Ha or Sapa, also located in the mountainous province, since it is nestled at the far end of a road near the border with China. Many travel tips are awaiting in the village, although traveling there requires visitors to hold onto their hats and their seats either in a car or on a motorcycle depending on their means of travel for nearly 40 kilometres of bumpy, winding road from Bac Ha.
In recent years, the charms of Si Ma Cai have been awakened and have become attractive to travellers due to the flower-coloured clothes of the ethnic peoples Mong and Red Dao, by the greenery of mountains and hills, and by the legends.
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 harmonize with the footsteps of ethnic peoples on the long trip from the hills and mountains to the village’s central market, particularly on Sunday.
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, not traders bringing items from Hanoi or elsewhere.