I’ve been to my share of local markets throughout Asia, in fact, it’s one of my all time favorite activities. Nothing to buy, only to look and relax in the midst of everyone else taking care of necessary business and scurrying through their daily lives. At Kota Kinabalu’s night market I watched the sun peacefully set over a still bay with vendors advertising their vegetables with verses of rap.
Markets are a source of life, people around the world shop at markets for essential ingredients to sustain living. I enjoy the energy and buzz, the raunchy smells and mix of clientele that only fresh food markets can generate.
Hanoi, a city of around 6.5 million residents, is fueled by hungry eaters who yearn for the finest and freshest vegetables and fruits Vietnam has to offer.
Like everything else in Hanoi, things are chaotic and busy, the Long Bien Market on the other hand is on steroids. The Long Bien wholesale market is the distribution point for probably most of Hanoi’s produce. Commercial shoppers to double basket hawkers shop for steals of deals in bulk quantities.
The market located at the Northern side of Hanoi’s Old Quarter takes the graveyard shift getting fully underway by about 1 am and by 6 am things are settling down and winding to a finish.
I arrived at 4 am, eager to absorb Hanoi in it’s most throbbing state. I was greeted my mountains of fruit, containers of vegetables, and piles of herbs and spices. There was a continual flow of shouting, motorcycle zooming, honking, and always some sort of commotion within a few strides.
Men loaded their motorcycles to the max, while women thrust on their double basket Vietnamese carriers and darted through the clogged veins of the market. The only way to move is to be extremely aggressive and squeeze through narrow passageways to blend into the traffic. I pushed through, avoided being squished to death by mere inches. As soon as I would find a square foot to stop and take a photo, a cart pusher would be in my face, telling me to move.
The excitement continued to the main entrance, where I witnessed a messy traffic jam that lasted for 5 minutes because not a single person would budge to let anyone go through.
The sun started to rise and people were actually running in and out of the main entrance now, avoiding collision with city buses that had already begun their routes. I perched myself on the side of a wall along with a homeless man sleeping, in order to find space and freedom to maneuver. From the wall I could enjoy the disorder and confusion of the entire market.
The composure of the Long Bien Market was among the craziest and most entertaining that I’ve ever witnessed. Walking back into the narrow slot canyon streets of the Old Quarter that I thought were extremely congested, now seemed a little more open, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
If you travel to Hanoi, be sure to wake up early one morning and visit, just don’t focus on 1 thing to too long (you might get squished!).
Long Bien Wholesale Market
– Migration Mark