Traditional markets make Hanoi special, why eliminate them?

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  Hang Da shopping mall opened in 2010 as a replacement for a market of the same name that was dated to around 1954 / PHOTO COURTESY OF CHOHANGDA.COM.VN

Hanoi began a project a few years ago to replace traditional markets with supermarkets and shopping malls.

This has proved to be an ineffective project as many new multi-billion dong shopping sites are doing bad business.

Many stores in the Hang Da shopping mall have closed. There are almost no customers at the Cua Nam mall, and stores in O Cua Dua have been turned into restaurants, karaoke parlors and banks.

All these facts about the new shopping malls built to replace the traditional markets with the same name were recorded on a video clip and showed to the city's lawmakers at a recent meeting.

Meanwhile, despite authorities' efforts in recent years to eliminate street markets, more and more have sprung up, as sellers who used to do business in the old markets can't afford the rents at new shopping malls and have to set up shops somewhere else.

And then, many Hanoians are so familiar and comfortable with the way traditional markets operate that the so-called advanced shopping systems might not find favor. They find it inconvenient to ride their bikes to a basement parking lot just to buy some fish or something else very trivial. They also do not appreciate the fact that goods at such places are often priced higher than at a traditional market.

The end result is that a huge amount of money invested in the shopping malls has been wasted. And, the bitterly sad fact is we have paid a heavy price for a misguided, unoriginal vision of a capital city with shopping malls and big supermarkets, aping places like the US and Europe.

Of course, there is nothing bad about wanting to modernize or having the ambition to become a developed country, but authorities should have realized that even in the "advanced" cities, traditional values are still preserved.

Anyone who has ever been to European and American cities should know that people there do not always do their shopping in malls or supermarkets. They have small stores around street corners, stalls selling vegetables, food or fruits in the common area of apartment buildings. Goods sold in such places are usually cheap and the location is very convenient.

Germany is famous for flea markets that have been held for many years. For instance, in a corner of Berlin, a market that sells vegetables and fruits opens every morning to serve housewives. The famous fish market in Hamburg is now a tourism attraction, as is the one organized periodically on the square of Bonn City's Old Town Hall.

Then, why did we want to eliminate traditional markets that are a part of our culture, a part of the life of many generations of Hanoians?

If we continue the project to get rid of all the markets, there will come a time when our grandchildren and great grandchildren never know what a traditional market is until they visit some German or French city.

Is that what we really want?

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