Admire the Enchanting Hue of Rice Flowers in Lao Cai

Every March, visitors flock to Coc Leu District, Lao Cai, to marvel at the breathtaking blooming rice flowers that paint the land in a vibrant crimson hue.


This place has been around for hundreds of years, but not everyone knows that “Coc Leu” originates from a rice flower tree, with its brilliant flower blooming season in March.

Lao Cai, a province in the northwest mountainous region of Vietnam, boasts a temperate climate that nurtures an array of vibrant spring flowers, including peaches, plums, pears, and mustard flowers. Against the backdrop of majestic natural scenery, these brilliant blooms create a captivating spectacle that entices numerous tourists.

At sunset in March, rice flowers bloom brilliantly in Coc Leu, which is known as the land of three rivers with a sky of red rice flowers. Photo: Lao Dong Thu Do

Coc Leu, a small city of Lao Cai, is close to the Chinese border. As the crow flies, the distance between the local market (Coc Leu) and the Chinese border is perhaps 300 meters. No wonder tourists can find many Chinese items in this covered market.

The Coc Leu district was traditionally the commercial district, which is located in the center of the city. It is therefore no wonder that here is the most famous market in the city, which you should not miss. The covered market has the same name: Coc Leu. Visitors will also find about 700 stalls here.

The Coc Leu district was traditionally the commercial district, which is located in the center of the city. Photo: Lao Dong Thu Do

Rice flowers are also known as Moc Mien. The flower has 5 petals and is red. They start blooming from the beginning of March and last until mid-April. When the flowers go to seed, the seeds and white cotton bushes are blown away by the wind and white to the sky, leaving them to germinate into trees.

Rice flowers bloom and fall like spreading a layer of red carpet under the roots and on the streets. Many birds, bees, and butterflies also fly here to collect nectar.

The flowers start blooming at the beginning of March and last until mid-April. Photo: Lao Dong Thu Do

In winter, rice plants shed all their leaves to await spring, when they burst into vibrant blooms like fiery spots amidst the grayish sky as if to dispel the remaining coldness of winter.

During the cold drizzly March rain, the branches of fiery red flowers resembling thousands of lit candles amid the sky always make passersby stop to admire. The ancient roofs covered by a layer of fallen rice flowers or the roads flooded with the red hue of flowers are some of the most dreamy and breathtaking sceneries of Lao Cai.

For generations, rice flowers have always been associated with the springtime in rural, midland, and mountainous areas of Northern Vietnam. Every March, the villagers eagerly await the vibrant red rice flowers adorning the rural roads.

Legend of the rice flower

It is said that there was a loving couple in a distant mountainous region. Unfortunately, one day, a flood washed away all the young man’s preparations. He then asked the heavens why the unpredictable weather caused distress and suffering to the people. It turned out that the Thunder God was neglecting his duties. Upon realizing this, the Jade Emperor detained the young man to become the Rain God to regulate the weather. Whenever he thought of his beloved, tears would stream down his face.

Rice flowers are also known as Moc Mien. The flower has 5 petals and is red. Photo: Lao Dong Thu Do

The girl climbed up the wishing tree, eagerly waiting for her lover. One day in March, the Jade Emperor learned of her plight and fulfilled her wish. He transformed her into a tree with deep roots clinging to the earth, a straight trunk, and a tall crown for the young man to see. The silk strip that was once a token of the young man’s love turned into five blazing red petals for him to recognize her. Hence, this flower is regarded as a symbol of unwavering loyalty, the ironclad heart of the young woman.

Charlotte Pho