A different market

Thanh Nien News

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 PHOTOS: NGO HUY HOA
Many Vietnamese people, especially frequent travelers, were disappointed when Dong Van Market, one of the famous plateau’s main attractions, was relocated in 2011.
They lamented that the market would lose its charm after being taken out of its original location at the foot of Don Cao Mountain near Quyet Tien Village, part of an old neighborhood built over 100 years ago.
They also claimed that the market would no longer have the antique look that a century-old market should have.
However, most people who have since revisited Dong Van Market have found that it’s still a beautiful place to visit, because its main charm lies in the people there and the way they live, work and play at the market.
According to local authorities, the relocation was necessary because the amount of sellers and buyers had increased, exceeding the market’s capacity. They also said it was a must for the preservation of the ancient neighborhood, after the latter was recognized as a national relic site.
The market’s new site is situated a few hundreds of meters away from the old site and is much bigger.
After the relocation, the market still keeps its tradition of opening every Sunday.
People from the different ethnic minority communities on the plateau – like the Mong, Dao, Giay, Tay, and Nung hill tribes – gather at the market for different purposes.
Many people come to exchange goods, carrying with them a variety of things like pigs, goats, horses, baskets of wood or vegetables, ruou ngo (corn wine), honey, and colorful brocades.
Sometimes goods are available in very small amounts like a dozen eggs or a bunch of leafy vegetables, as some people aren’t even selling the things they carry.
Local people consider going to the market a weekend outing after working hard for a whole week, and the goods they carry with are sometimes an excuse for them to attend the market.
Others, especially women, go to the market because they really need to buy necessities like kerosene and salt for their families.
Meanwhile, many people come to meet their friends. They chat, drink, eat and even play the khen – a traditional wind instrument made from bamboo by the Mong people.
It is not rare to come across a man who’s gotten extremely drunk after such a gathering at the market. In some cases, you can see a woman carrying an umbrella protecting her drunken husband from the sunlight. She waits impatiently until he gets sober, or throws him on a horse to slowly take him home.
When visiting Dong Van Market, you must not miss the food stalls that sell local specialties like colorful sticky rice, banh ngo nuong (grilled corn cake), and thang co (meat soup consisting of cow, buffalo, goat, or horse innards).
Despite its strong smell, thang co is often recommended as a must-eat in Dong Van by many Vietnamese travel writers.
Cooked in a giant pan over a big cement stove, thang co in Dong Van is often made with cow offal and lower limbs.
The soup is probably too fatty for some people, but you can balance it by eating it with sticky rice or corn cakes. Sellers always place salt and sodium glutamate on tables so customers can add them to the soup as they like.
Offal is eaten with ground chili pepper mixed with salt.
A perfect way to end a tour around the Dong Van Market is by sitting down and enjoying the hot meat soup with corn wine in the chilliness of the plateau, while watching the lively and colorful scene around you.

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