Hanoi’s covered markets
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.
are four of the best:
Hang Da: very crowded, but very Vietnamese.
It’s a good place to look for ceramics and pottery.
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.
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.
19-12: a comparatively small produce market
famous for its superb vegetables: great variety, and fresh
from the local farms.
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.
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.