Every night at 2am, in a network of stalls under the Long Bien bridge, they gather. Farmers from the countryside driving open trucks full of fruit or vegetables or clams or fish or sugarcane or chickens, importers with boxes of apples from China, carefully wrapped for the drive through the mountains, and the hundreds of vendors from around Hanoi who come here every morning to buy -wholesale- the stuff they’ll spend the day selling out of baskets with shoulder poles. Carrots in 10 kilo bags, fish by the bucket, apples by the box. Do you need 5lbs of fresh chili peppers? Done. Quality and price are debated, an agreement is reached, and the produce is strapped to a bicycle or motorbike. The bright lights in each stall stand in contrast with the darkness of the night, the melee of voices stand in contrast to the mostly-asleep city, and it will be over by the time the city is awake.
This is where we went one Monday morning. Up at 3:50. Confused Ethel gets a morning walk much earlier than she would like. Meet our photo-tour guide, Colm from VietnaminFocus, at 4:30 at the market entrance. 4 hours of photographic instruction in gorgeous market, followed by breakfast? Good deal. Not normally someone interested in guided tours, this morning’s photo-tour was perfect. Andrew and I received detailed feedback and suggestions on a variety of photograph styles, and Colm nudged us to get over the awkwardness of photographing people. Find a selection of my photos below.
This city is wonderful. We sit outside drinking strong coffee under old metal fans, watching people walk by, the other cafe patrons, the lake across the street, the teenage guys in charge of parking motorbikes, the shoe shiners, the rooster on a twine leash tied to a tree. We go on mini adventures – for dog food, for towels, for a yoga mat – and end up in new neighborhoods, new places. Do you need a 15 foot ladder made out of bamboo? I happen to know where bamboo ladder street is! [Side note, obtaining one of these is very much on my to-do list] Need your motorbike seat re-covered? How about Louis Vuitton embossed imitation leather? There’s a street for that!
To recap: we wake up in the morning, open the shutters so the breeze can move through the apartment [mental note: buy mosquito net], look in amazement at the place we get to call home, do a bit of work, eat some delicious food…not a bad deal.