Market of the heart

(No.5, Vol.8,Oct-Nov Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Selling pigs at the Lung Phin Market, Ha Giang Province, 2015. Photo: Tran Van Tuy

Puppy for sale at a market, Ha Giang Province, 2015. Photo: Nguyen Thien Hung

A noodle stall at the Dong Van Market, Ha Giang Province, March, 2017. Photo: Nguyen Huu Thong

Cattle for sale at the Meo Vac Market, Ha Giang Province, June, 2016. Photo: Tran Dam

Crowds of ethnic people in colorful traditional outfits conduct trading of hand woven brocades, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, forest bamboo shoots and vegetables. That’s the most unique characteristic of the kermises of Ha Giang Province.
There are other significant characteristics; these kermises gather only once or twice a week and are not only the place where people exchange goods, but also where they meet, talk, exchange news and other information, and date.
The biggest kermises, attracting most locals and tourists, usually gather at the center of the districts of Dong Van, Meo Vac, Yen Minh, Quan Ba, Hoang Su Phi and Xin Man. These kermises gather only once a week, usually on Saturdays or Sundays. The smaller kermises in communes such as Tung Vai (Meo Vac District) and Nan Xin (Xin Man District) gather twice a week; Pho Cao kermis (Dong Van District) gathers once every six days; Lung Phin kermis gathers only on the days of the Tiger and the Monkey...
On the kermis days, people of the ethnic groups of Tay, H’Mong, Dao, Lo Lo, Nung, La and Chi get out of their houses very early. They come to the kermis on foot or on horse or ox cart. The women, especially the young ones always come in their best, newly-woven colorful traditional dresses, an umbrella in their hand and a basket on their back. They carry the goods they want to sell such as bamboo shoots, rice and various roots. Men, old and young, carry chickens and pigs under their arms and tow buffalos and cows.
The kermis area is usually divided into subareas for each kind of product such as pigs, cows, vegetables, brocades and colorful dresses. There is always a food court with kiosks and shops selling all sorts of typical food items of the highlands such as colored steamed sticky rice, stuffed rice cakes, fried dumplings and cattle intestine soup.
Some vendors have a decent-looking shop. Some have only a rudimentary kiosk made of bamboo, and some just spread a nylon poncho on the ground and arrang­­­e their goods for sale on it.
Vendors announce their goods and solicit the passersby. Visitors wander around and browse. They talk about the products the quality and the price. The atmosphere is merry and sometimes even boisterous.
The food court is perhaps the liveliest area in the kermis because people come here not only to eat, but also to socialize.
Kermises usually close when the sun is nearing its zenith, when the pots and pans are empty, when the wine jars are upside down and there is nothing left to be sold. People part and promise to meet again at the next kermis.

By Dang Le
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