For the expat community in Hanoi, a visit to a local open-air street market must be a great way to experience the capital’s lively culture; but if they haven’t mastered the art of haggling in a foreign language or simply want a social rendezvous, Tay Ho weekend market is a good place for them.
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This market, known as Chợ “Tây” (a local term referring to foreigners), located in a small alley in Tay Ho district’s To Ngoc Van street, has emerged as a thriving market for expats in the capital.
Initially, only foreigners living around the area came to the market, but since last August, many more Vietnamese have started coming out of curiosity.
Even though the trade prices of products sold at Chợ Tây are a bit higher than local open-air markets or shops, it attracts anywhere from 200 to 400 buyers from 9am to 12am every Saturday.
“I came here to buy some organic products. I heard about the market from my friend. I feel very good after buying good-quality products here,” said P. Tomsej, an American customer, holding some vegetables and bread in her hands, said.
Rose Sayag, a French woman, told Tuoi Tre News that she came to the market because of its festive atmosphere: “The atmosphere here is very friendly and there are a lot of French people. I receive emails every weekend about the products, exhibitions or special events that will be organized at this market, so it really motivates me to attend.”
Meanwhile, Nguyen Minh Chau, a 9th grader at a junior high school in Hanoi, said she was amazed by the presence of so many foreigners.
Chau came to the market to buy some T-shirts, and after looking around she found a beautiful T-shirt at a competitive price at a stall selling second-hand clothes.
“This is the T-shirt that I like very much. The sellers here are very friendly. Definitely, I would tell my friends about this place,” she said.
The weekend market was founded in 2009 by Frenchman Patrice Gautier, who has three daughters with his Vietnamese wife. The aim of the market is to promote the sale of fresh and organic agricultural products.
Tay Ho weekend market
“We had the idea of setting up the market a few years ago because we like the model of the weekend market in France and we wanted to do something in Vietnam,” said Patrice.
Despite its small scale of 20-some stalls, the market offers a wide range of products for daily use, form vegetables, fruit, eggs, and honey to books, cosmetics, handicrafts, and toys with clear origins and price tags.
Volunteer clubs and organizations collecting and selling second-hand clothes and other items for charity purposes also frequent the market.
“We have sold second-hand clothes at the market since last year. All profits we earn will benefit Vietnamese children in need,” said Dao Thuy Mai, a volunteer of the Hanoi-based New Beginnings Organization, which works to raise funds for local disabled and homeless children.
Chợ Tây also helps promote environmental protection. All things purchased in this market are put into paper bags instead of the nylon bags that are used widely in many shops and open-air markets in the capital.
Trinh Minh Duc, a third-year student at the National Economics University, and his schoolmates played guitar and performed some English songs in the middle of the market to draw the attention of market-goers for their new product, a bio waste bin which is used to turn organic waste into food for worms whose droppings act as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for farmers.
Trinh Minh Duc (R) and his schoolmates come to Tay Ho market to promote a new product for environment protection
“We are members of the Excavustus project, which focuses on supporting farmers in Phu Dong commune in Hanoi’s Gia Lam district. We have come to the market to promote the product because the expat community in Hanoi is our best potential customer.” Duc said.
Food safety first
Patrice said some people, although just a small number, visit the market simply out of curiosity, and a majority of people come here because they trust the food safety.
“It takes time for the market’s management board to select new suppliers or new products from them. Sometimes two weeks, sometimes two months to assess and to decide,” Patrice claimed.
All food and beverages sold in the market are fresh and most are organic.
Rose Sayag said she greatly appreciates the initiative of setting up the weekend market, bringing in good-quality products, especially food and vegetables, to the customers.
“It’s hard for me to find organic products in the shop and be able to identify the origin of the products. One of the only places where I can do this is the Tay Ho Western Market,” she added.
Dang Quang Minh, who sells organic vegetables at the market, said organic or farm products often garner great interest from both Vietnamese and foreign consumers, who want something good for their health.
“We bring approximately 120 kilos of vegetables to the market. Our products are usually sold out every Saturday,” he said.