Historic market prepares for busy Teát
The 90-year-old Bình Taân Market in District 6 is busier than ever weeks before the tra
ditional Teát (Lunar New Year) holiday season. Thu Anh reports.
Bình Taây, one of the southern region's biggest wholesale markets, is seeing more than double its average number of visitors in the weeks before the holiday season.
Last month, the market's shop owners began preparing for the year's biggest business season, hoarding thousands of Vietnamese items.
More than 1,446 stalls in Bình Taây are selling a wide variety of goods, including quality food, garments, footwear, handicrafts and oriental medicinal herbs.
"Not many markets in HCM City can offer their customers as many products and services as Bình Taây," Nguyeãn Anh Vieät, a member of the market's management board, said.
"To prepare for Teát, shop owners are working with dealers from the provinces of the Mekong River Delta, Cambodia, Laos and China, who've delivered several tonnes of goods each day."
"We've allowed our regular dealers to postpone payment until they've sold their products," he added.
This Teát, traditional Vietnamese clothes made of silk and cotton, footwear from small factories, and foodstuff like fried seafood that can be stored for months are favourite products of locals and tourists.
Garment shop owner Thaùi Thò Höông, whose parents once sold clothing at Bình Taây, can speak English, Khmer and Chinese. Her shop offers handbags and clothes made by small factories in rural districts and neighbouring provinces such as Bình Döông and Ñoàng Nai.
"My customers are free to bargain, but many shops offer fixed prices," said Höông, who often begins her day at 5am at the market.
Höông regularly works with dealers in Cambodia and Laos. "We collect goods once a month, mostly garments and footwear, and pack them into containers to export by road to our partners."
She spent nearly VNÑ300 million ( US$12,800) to store products for Teát. Her regular dealers from southern provinces began ordering late last month.
In November, Höông and other shop owners reopened their business at Bình Taây after moving to another location in District 6 two years ago when the market was closed for repairs and upgrade.
"It's too early to predict how much I will sell this season. I hope for a good 'harvest' this Teát as many local and foreign visitors have come since the market reopened," said Höông.
Höông signed a 10-year contract with the market's management board after her 20-year contract ended late last year.
Buøi Thò Tuyeát Mai, who owns a confectionery shop, said: "We enjoy working with dealers from Cambodia and Laos because our culture and lifestyle are familiar to theirs. We know what they want and try our best to satisfy their demands."
Mai's shop offers traditional sweet products or möùt at competitive prices, VNÑ120,000 (US$6)-190,000 ($10) per kilogramme. The prices are 5-7 per cent higher than in previous months.
"Traditionally, Vietnamese like fruit preserves during Teát. They believe the sweet flavour will bring good luck in the New Year," said Mai, adding that traditional sugared kumquat, lotus seeds, coconut, squash, soursop and sweet potato are popular.
Next week, Mai and her colleagues will deliver a half tonne of Vietnamese confectionery and jam products to her regular dealers in Phnom Penh.
Her Cambodian customers are preparing for their biggest holiday, Khmer New Year (Cambodian Lunar New Year) in April.
These days, visitors to Bình Taây are surprised to discover piles of fake currencies in US dollars and Vietnamese ñoàng as well as rows of miniature paper replicas of consumer goods such as houses, motorbikes and other luxuries.
The paper items, called vaøng maõ (votive paper), are highly popular as it is traditional to burn them on the death anniversary of a loved one and on every Raèm (full moon day), as well as during Teát.
An ethnic Hoa (Vietnamese with Chinese origin) shop owner, A Coùn, said he sold several dozens of tonnes of paper each year.
"People believe the offerings will cross over to the spirit world and provide luck to the deceased," said Coùn, adding that his shop had been opened for more than 10 years.
Coùn earns VNÑ5,000 ($0.2) in profit for every one million ñoàng of fake currencies his shop sells.
Every day, his shop prints billions of fake ñoàng and millions of fake US dollars, and even more on the days before Lunar New Year, when many people buy joss items to offer to deceased loved one or to forsaken spirits.
Despite the abundance of modern supermarkets and shopping malls in HCM City, niche markets still attract customers who love discovering unusual or traditional products and items that remind them of the past, Vieät said.
"Purchases in Bình Taây are expected to increase 70 per cent in the last days of the season, which this year fall between February 1 and 4, compared to last season," he added.
Vieät said that Bình Taây market was officially recog- nised as an architectural relic by the city's People's Committee last year.
"We have worked closely with leading tourist agencies in the region, including Saøi Goøn Tourist, to offer Bình Taây market tours for thousands of local and foreign visitors. We want to introduce the specific flavours of HCM City culture and Bình Taây market's lifestyle to visitors."
Tröông Kim Quaân, director of the HCM City Monuments Conservation Centre, said that Bình Taây market was built on 25,000 sq.m of land in 1928.
"A Chinese businessman named Quaùch Ñaøm in 1930 built and donated the market to the city authorities. In the past, it was sometimes called Quaùch Ñaøm market by locals. It was designed by a French architect who mixed traditional Chinese and East Asian architectural styles," he said.
The market has 12 gates. The one on Thaùp Möôøi Street is decorated with a clocktower, which is one of the city's symbols.
After many decades, the market fell into disrepair, with exposed steel beams, damaged walls and a leaking roof.
Ngoâ Thanh Luoâng, chairman of District 6's People's Committee, said: "In 2016, we closed the market to renovate at a cost of VNÑ104 billion (US$4.5 million). The money was mostly from donations collected from the market's shop owners over a period of 10 years."
Luoâng said that local authorities worked with experts from HCM City Monuments Conservation Centre during the renovation.
"We really worked hard to retain the market's original architecture," he said.
Bình Taây, which now is located on 28,000 sq.m of land, borders Thaùp Möôøi, Leâ Taán Keá, Phaïm Vaên Khoûe and Traàn Bình streets in District 6.
The market has new public toilets, standby generators, security camera systems, customer information rooms, cable and telephone lines, internet connections, and fire safety systems.
With a staggering number of stalls, 784 on the ground floor and 698 on the first floor, customers looking for the perfect holiday items will not walk away empty-handed! VNS