Hanoi’s Markets

Hanoi’s covered markets
Covered markets ('cho' in Vietnamese) are usually housed in large, purpose-built structures, but often spill over into their surrounding areas. They sell wide range of commodities and produce, and tend to be somewhat smelly, especially around the fresh meat and fish sections.

Here are four of the best:

Cho Hang Da: very crowded, but very Vietnamese. It’s a good place to look for ceramics and pottery.

Cho Dong Xuan: the largest in the city. Dong Xuan is good for fabrics and souvenirs. A recent innovation is a late night outdoor market and a long line of small food stalls selling a variety of traditional street food. The impromptu pavement ‘bia hoi’ on the right hand corner that starts up in the late afternoon is an excellent place to drink good beer and watch the world from a Vietnamese viewpoint.

Cho Hom: just outside the city centre. Cho Hom is probably the best place for fabric, not just inside, but also in the many shops across the road – they specialise in particular materials and weaves.

Cho 19-12: a comparatively small produce market famous for its superb vegetables: great variety, and fresh from the local farms.

Hanoi’s street markets
There are dozens of official street markets and many more unofficial enterprises all over the city. There are moves to shut down some of the unofficial sites because they often stray into the road and add to the congestion.

Almost all follow the same pattern of a range of produce, refreshment stalls and excellent flowers. They are always packed with customers - made worse by Vietnamese shoppers riding their motorbikes through the narrow aisles between the stalls. Nevertheless, the range of goods on sale is fascinating - a visit is essential for any traveller looking for an authentic experience of Vietnam.

Hanoi’s wholesale market
This is definitely one for night birds and insomniacs. Farmers from all around Hanoi head for the area at the western end of Long Bien Bridge carrying their produce. Some sell to intermediaries, other set up their own stalls on the road.

At about 2am, the customers arrive – mostly people with small shops, market stallholders and street sellers, with the occasional individual wanting to buy in bulk. Trading dies off around 4am, and by 5am, the whole area has been swept and the rubbish removed in time for the morning rush hour.

Prices are amazingly cheap, and the vegetables couldn’t be fresher. Pride of place goes to the flowers – a dollar will buy a gargantuan bunch of roses, and there’s a huge range.

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