His­toric mar­ket pre­pares for busy Teát

Viet Nam News - - HOME TURF -

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."

Old mar­ket

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

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