A lesser known ethnic minority market in the northern province of Lao Cai is graced with natural colors and simple, straightforward people
More women than men buy rice wine at Coc Ly Market, which opens every Tuesday in Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Province/PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
When I visited Lao Cai Province recently, I missed the famous Bac Ha Market that its Hmong residents open every Sunday to exchange goods, the one that has become a famous tourist attraction.
The reason was that I had spent too much time in Muong Nhe District in the nearby Dien Bien Province, thus arriving in Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Town, only on Monday.
However, the delay helped me discover the Coc Ly Market in the commune of the same name, not far from the Bac Ha Market.
"You should visit Coc Ly. The market held there every Tuesday is a lot of fun," a receptionist at my hotel told me.
Following her directions, I rented a motorbike and drove through a road under construction that cars were not allowed on.
On the way, I saw groups of foreign tourists walking briskly in the same direction, and I wondered at their evident enthusiasm.
I did not have to wonder for long.
Located on the banks of the Chay River, the market is a riot of color. Whether it is the pieces of brocade displayed at fabric stalls or the different dresses worn by women of ethnic minority communities like the Mong, Tay, and Dao, bright colors shone everywhere.
The women gathered in groups at brocade stalls, chatting, while young girls, giggling and laughing, were busy making up and taking turns to be photographed against a landscape poster featuring mountains, rivers and birds.
Even the farm produce sold at the market added color - green herbs, wild vegetables, red rice, yellow mèn mén a local specialty in which rice is cooked with finely ground corn.
With green forests and mountains in the background, vibrant and alive unlike the poster that the girls were being photographed against, the Coc Ly Market made a striking picture that one is not likely to forget for a long time.