The Hanoitimes - If you want it, you will find it in Hanoi’s markets. Finding it, however, is a completely different question.
How many markets are there in Hanoi? Well, that depends on how you count, maybe dozens, maybe hundreds. Maybe a thousand or more if you include all the temporary markets, and those spots where traders gather just to serve a residential area, or even a university dorm or a hospital. one thing is for sure, there can’t be many places in the world where you can find as many markets as in Hanoi.
In recent years, the number of markets in Hanoi has expanded considerably, as more and more people pour into the capital to make a living. Trading seems to be the most lucrative, if not the easiest way.
It is not surprising that, among the famous markets in the capital city such as Dong Xuan, Long Bien, Mo, Buoi, Hom Duc Vien, Cau Giay and Hang Da, none are considered particularly large.
Traders are often wholesalers or small retailers. They must be financially able to secure a stall, finance their deals and solve other problems relating to daily operations. At the smaller markets, small stalls are already designated for particular products. Trading simply meets the daily needs of shoppers and does not require much initial capital.
Commodities pouring into these markets come from China, and some regional countries, as well as from other sources. But on the basis of commodities, markets in Hanoi vary widely. Each market is well-known for certain kinds of goods. Let’s take a look at a few of the hot spots:
Long Bien market is the hub of the fruit trade. Everyday, trucks laden with fruits from the southern region and other farming areas carry huge amounts of whatever fruit happens to be in season.
Hom Duc Vien market is a popular spot to find footwear, garments and cloth. The lines of stalls here are piled high with colourful pairs of sandals, with shoes of all kinds marching in ranks across the first floor. The second floor is draped in cloth and garments, most of which have been imported from China.
Buoi market specialises in saplings, pets, poultry and farm produce. It is regarded as a rural market because most of the trade involves farm products from rural areas in and around Hanoi and neighbouring provinces. If you want to buy a dog or a cat, this is your place.
Dong Xuan market is possibly the biggest of them all, where a wide range of goods such as stationery, garment, footwear and souvenirs are on sale.
A recent addition is a late night outdoor market and a snaking line of small food stalls selling a variety of traditional street food. In another part of the market, grains and dry foodstuffs emit a wonderful aroma.
Cho Troi market or open air market is the ideal place to find second-hand commodities and spare parts. These commodities, especially electrical appliances, often come from China. Dealers who have travelled from other provinces purchase these goods wholesale to re-sell to customers.
Other markets in Hanoi do not specialise in a certain commodity but mainly serve the daily needs of the household, such as vegetables, meat, fish, flowers and fruits. People who deal in the same foods tend to flock together so that customers can find them and make deals more easily.
Going to the market is a way of life. It is also considered an art of sorts whereby a shrewd housewife can be distinguished from a less competent one.
Some women are old hands at shopping while others are still inexperienced after 5 or 10 years.
Le Thi Hoa, a housewife says, “For me, going to the market is more a business than a habit. It can be exciting because sometimes I must consider different options and make a good choice with a given sum of money so that I can buy things suited to my pocket. And I think that some people go to market not only to buy and sell but also to meet other people.”
It is evident that vendors at the different markets around town have different trading styles. The wholesale traders at the big markets are often skilled at driving hard bargains. They know how to deal with customers based on appearance.
A market is also an exiting world where all kinds of characters run into each other. Butchers and fishmongers are said to be talkative and cunning. Vegetable sellers are often more good-natured, patient and industrious. Flower sellers seem to have green fingers. They are well spoken and always smiling.
Traders and trading at Hanoi’s markets are constantly on the move. Deals take place everyday, sustaining the whole city. As such, Hanoi’s markets are the heart and soul of life in the city.