Vietnam’s markets – a cultural feature of Vietnam

Vietnamese market
Vietnamese market

Vietnam’s markets have been established for a long time. Legend of Hung King’s period has it that Vietnamese people were good at exchanging goods with foreigners. Since then, the market is the destination for trading between different communities. Throughout history, Vietnamese markets contain outstanding points of traditional culture.

Market – the place for ex-lovers

People go to the market to not only exchange goods or purchase essential products but also meet and exchange information and feelings. The love market is typical of ethnic minorities in Northern mountainous provinces. Perhaps due to this unique characteristic, Bac Ha market is regarded as one of the 10 most attractive markets in the Southeast Asia. No sooner was Lao Cai province established than Bac Ha market is opened in Chau Bac Ha. Since then, the market always opens meetings once a week on Sundays. For local people, besides meeting the demand of buying and selling goods of the local people, this market is for cultural exchange between ethnic groups in the Northwest.

Bac Ha market
Bac Ha market

Bac Ha market is divided into many areas providing different kinds of goods; for example, brocatelle, food, horse, poultry, and so on. Each area includes diverse goods and brings its own local features. Moreover, coming to the market is the chance for various peoples to communicate with each other. After one week of hard working, local minorities go down the mountain and wear colorful clothes to take part in the market which is also seen as a festival of young people to make the acquaintance with partners. For old people, they have opportunities to talk with their friends. More interesting is that they make friends via blowing “khen” or flute. This sound expresses their feelings for their partners or friends.

Apart from Bac Ha market, many other markets in the Northern mountainous region with typical local cultural characteristics draw the attention of tourists; for instance, Luon market in Cao Bang, Bac Kan and Lang Son. At first, Tay, Nung and Thai people mainly came here to meet each other and sing for love exchange and these markets almost did not run any business activities. Ha Giang ethnic people own a market clinging to a love story; it is called Khau Vai love market.

Market of “purchasing good luck, selling bad luck”

A significant number of Vietnamese people go to market aimed at learning cultures of each region. A special point is that the market has the close connection between markets and spiritual cultures. Ying Yang market of O village, Vo Giang, Bac Ninh takes place once a year on January 4 and 5 of Lunar Calendar. In the past, this place was a battlefield having quite a few dead soldiers. The market meeting is the occasion for living people to talk and pray for luck and happiness. The market is held in the night but no one is allowed to light; the goods almost include paper money, joss paper, fruit, betel and areca; all of which are shown on the dried banana leaves. All of the people are not allowed to talk loud, bargain and even count money. Furthermore, those who go to the market for pray have to bring a black chicken to worship the God of the village. While waiting for sunrise, people invite each other to taste betel, sing “quan ho”, and so on.

Vieng market, Nam Dinh
Vieng market, Nam Dinh

More popular than O village is Vieng market in Goi, Vu Ban, Nam Dinh. This is a pray-for-luck market and located in Phu Giay – the place to worship Lieu Hanh Princess, one of four Vietnamese immortal gods. Vieng market only opens on January 8 of Lunar Calendar annually. The market is the collection of products of traditional villages from the North to the South such as forged and carved metals, pottery and furniture. Moreover, ornamental plants and fresh fruit are also sold here. The most unique and lovely feature is that there is almost no bargain between sellers and buyers. It is assumed that this action expresses a spiritual meaning that selling or buying anything in the market gives the luck to both sides. That’s the reason why the old name of Vieng market is Pray-For-Luck market.

Markets in flood water season

Each Vietnamese market owns distinctive beauty. If in the North, mountainous markets are covered with the color of highland region; the South is famous for floating markets where boats are the main transportation to exchange goods.

The floating market is a popular type of market in the riverine area; therefore, all the sellers and buyers have to move and transport goods by boats. Normally, floating markets are located in the reach of the river that is neither too wide nor too small and neither too shallow nor too deep because boats and junks cannot be easily anchored.

Floating market, Mekong Delta
Floating market, Mekong Delta

With the coastline of 700 km and the system of canals of 28,000 km, which accounts for 70% of the total length of the river throughout the country. From generation to generation, Mekong River is closely connected to the junk named “Tam Bản”. From time to time, a community of “tam bản” has been established and becomes the place of residence and trade at various river crossings; and the floating market becomes a typical characteristic of the Southern West region.

Cai Be and Can Tho floating markets are the most popular here. Cai Be market, together with Phung Hiep market has been come into existence since the century of 18 and form the border between Vinh Long, Ben Tre and Tien Giang. Similar to countless Vietnamese markets, there are plenty of goods, from fresh food to local fruits. A feature that makes floating markets different from other types of markets is the way of marketing. Sellers will put a pole on their bow and hang their products on that bow to introduce them to customers. Therefore, tourists will not hear any bargain that often appears in popular onshore markets. Floating markets open meetings the whole day, but they are crowded with people and have the noisiest business activities in every morning when the weather is quite cool. Tourists will become surprised at innumerable products of the riverine area and get an opportunity to witness daily activities and cultures of the locals who are well known as generous and hospitable.


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