Coc Ly Market is the colorful market in a mountainous area where the Flower H’mong mainly gathers to exchange their homemade products. This Tuesday market is about 35km from Bac Ha. You can get here via a good road, or by road and river; hotels in Sapa and Bac Ha can organize trips. Coc ly is a small village on the Chay River inhabited by the Flower H’mong Minority people. The Flower H’mong traditionally wears a distinctive and bright colored costume. They are a gentle, softly spoken people who live in the steep mountainous country close to the Chinese border. Because Coc Ly is more remote than Sapa, the dress and way of life is more traditional than in the large centers. The market deals in fruit, vegetable, pork and chickens, in addition to colorful fabrics and items of traditional dress. There is a buffalo sale in progress and many of these placid animals are tethered close to the market. Buffalo are still widely used in the growing process, especially in the mountainous regions. Horse are an important form of transport in the North West and a quite a few, sturdy ponies were tied to tree around the market. The horses carry a light timber frame on their back to carry produce to and from the market.
There’s no dancing or singing, but Coc Ly Market in Lao Cai Province always turns colorful and festive on Tuesdays, when ethnic people gather there to buy and sell goods, dine and drink, or just wander to enjoy the ambience of the montagnard market. Many ethnic traders from Bac Ha and other parts of Lao Cai Province dress up in colorful costumes and bring horses, chickens, buffaloes, vegetables or whatever they can sell to the festive market in the wee hours, and will not return home until 1pm.
Certainly, what catches the eyes of visitors most are the different colors of the costumes worn by ethnic people and the handicrafts they sell at the market, about 50 kilometers from Lao Cai City in the northern province. You can see young and old Hmong women, wearing skirts and hats with different types of embroidered flowers, crowding the market during the opening hours of Coc Ly market. Scarves, clothes, decorations and other items made of tho cam (ethnic fabric) on sale also add color to the bazaar by the Chay River.
The colorful items are put on sale not just for locals but also tourists, particularly foreigners. However, you should remember to bargain when you want to buy your favorites, and the items at the booths located at the start of the path you walk on always have higher prices. Keep walking toward the end of the traditionally ethnic market until you find a real bargain.
A good idea is to stroll every corner of the once-a-week bazaar as you listen to unexpected conversations, see nice surprises and learn how ethnic people sell and buy farm produce, life’s necessities and other things. After visiting the market, which is the most fresh and unspoiled market of the region, offering a wide range of different colorful ethnic minorities such as Flower C’mon, Black Dao, Tay , Fula, Lachi, Sandui and Nung… There will be an exciting boat cruise winding you through a breathtaking, out of this-world landscape where the mountain grow from water presenting their most hidden mysteries, including caves and tiny minority…A picnic lunch box can be prepared for your most convenience…
The market starts around 7am and closes in the early afternoon. A typical itinerary for a day at Coc Ly Market would be something along the lines of:
- Drive to Coc Ly market (95 km / 1h 45m from Sapa, or 60 km / 1 hour from Lao Cai).
- Enjoy your time at the market, walk around, bargain and take in the sights and sounds of local life.
- After exploring the market take a short drive to the Chay river. Sail down the gently flowing waters, lined by corn and vegetable fields, passing beautiful villages, impressive waterfalls, gorges and caves as you journey downriver.
- Stop halfway down the river to visit Trung Do, a village of the Tay minority people. Take time to explore the farms where they grow exotic chillis and jack fruit.
- Sail a further 15 minutes down stream to Bao Nhai village and have a late lunch in a local restaurant.
After lunch drive back to Sapa or Lao Cai.