The Gem Markets of Yen The - North Vietnam
By Fullerton & Rikki
Every turn on the road seemed to bring us terrifyingly close to another head-on collision with a truck or bus and yet, after a while, you somehow got used to it.
After a year of dreaming and planning, my wife and I were finally on our first trip to an Asian country with the added joy of it also being my first international gem hunt. Our destination was in the Luc Yen District of the mountainous region of Yen Bai Province. My online research had thrown up a few brief but tantalising references to the local gem market and I was determined to check it out.
As we neared the town, the steep slopes and sharp bends gave way to a rice paddy-clothed valley that meandered between mountains bearing occasional white scars. Far from being natural occurrences, the scars were the result of a series of marble sculpting businesses. Beautifully crafted lions, dragons, Romanesque-like figurines and Buddahs suddenly filled the pavement for half a kilometre.
Seven hours after leaving Hanoi, we arrived in Yên Thế with its bustling streets filled with assorted vendors, sidewalk kitchens, numerous mopeds and lorries. I soon noticed there wasn’t a single Westerner to be seen.