Many people I know here avoid local markets like the plague. They claim chaos, rudeness and ruthless bargaining and go instead to the larger superstores and western groceries scattered throughout the capital. But for me, nothing quite compares, and it’s one of my favorite things to do, both for shopping and taking photographs.
It helps to have a fondness for food and cooking. You soon learn what markets are best for what animals and produce. How pigs are slaughtered twice a day, and if you go in the early morning or late afternoon the cuts of pork you buy are still warm and steaming in the bag. How most vendors will kill, clean and cut the fish you buy right out of the tank. How some chickens come with unlaid yolks still inside. How duck eggs have a bluer hue. How lemons are a goddamn mystery but how limes are dozens to the dollar. And, maybe most importantly, how inexpensive everything can be even without bargaining.
The photographs above are from Dong Xuan Market in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The inner bowels of the market are something to be reckoned with and the outer streets twist into different alleys that all specialize in a variety of different things. There’s the street where you buy onions, shallots and garlic. The street where you buy dried beans and legumes. The street where you buy knock-off “Grucci” jeans and jackets. The street where you eat between buying other things from other streets and more. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. But why have it any other way?