This Coc Ly Tuesday market is about 35km from Bac Ha. You can get here via a fairly good road, or by road and river; hotels in Sapa and Bac Ha can organise trips. Coc Ly is a small village on the Chay river inhabited by the Flower H’mong Minority people. The Flower H’mong traditionally wear 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 colourful 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 horse 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 Laocai 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 Laocai 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. 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.