Coming to the defence of the city's flea market
My father, an electrical engineer, often goes to Ha Noi's Hoa Binh market, also known as Cho Troi (Sky Market) – or in English, the Flea Market – to find anything electrical or mechanical to repair or replace broken equipment, such as earphones or something as odd as "universal serial bus cable."
I began to hear about the Flea Market when I was a little girl, but until last October, I had never visited it – that is, until I lost my way going to a friend's house. I was amazed. It is a long winding street chock-a-block with stalls selling everything from radio to motorbike parts and tools – and even music. Located in Hai Ba Trung District, the area is home to about 700 small traders along streets such as Chua Vua, Thinh Yen, Tran Cao Van and Yen Bai.
Recently, I overheard a debate among small traders and local residents over media reports that local authorities plan to close the old market down. Apparently, they want to move it to Hoang Mai District's Den Lu wholesale market, 6km from where it is now. But the present location has become an institution since it began to develop in the 1950s. The Sky Market is believed to be the oldest market of its kind in the capital.
Most traders say they are concerned how their businesses will run and how their daily lives will be affected if the market is moved. Tran Ngoc Ha, who has a small kiosk selling motorbike parts, said: "My family's daily income has depended on this kiosk for a long time. Nobody can ensure our business activities will run smoothly if we are forced to move to the new place. How can we manage and what will happen to my family."
Bui Xuan Thanh, 60, owner of a stall repairing electrical appliances, said that people often went to the flea market to buy electrical and mechanical components. "It is the same sort of habit people get into when visiting Thuoc Bac (Traditional Medicine) Street to buy medicines or go to Lo Ren (Forge) Street to buy something made from metal," he said.
"Cho Troi is not only a market, but has become one of the city's natural trading places... part of the culture," he said. According to Thanh, the market was once shifted to an area around the Kim Lien-Dai Co Viet intersection, but failed to survive because the small traders returned to the old area. "They had no customers, so they had to come back," he said.
Pham Thi Nga, 40, another small trader, said that some lessons had been drawn from other new markets built on the sites of old markets in the city. Many small traders at the old Hang Da vegetable and clothing market, for example, had to suspend their business because they could not earn enough to pay rental expenses, she said. Others moved into adjacent streets to try and find new customers.
However, some people living around the Sky Market agree with the local authority's decision. One resident, Pham Thanh Thuy, said business activities at the market caused traffic jams and public disorder. Tran Ngoc Sang, 25, who lives in Chua Vua Street, said that the removal of the market would not affect the characteristic culture of the city. "It is just a move to a suitable place and would return the pavement and roadway to local residents," he said.
Cap Sy Phong, vice chairman of the Hai Ba Trung District People's Committee told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the market was not officially set up and that it caused traffic jams and polluted the environment. The committee is now making a detailed survey to detail the total number of small traders in the market and report to the city's Peoples Committee later this year.
It should note that two years ago, the new Hang Da trade centre built for VND220 billion (US$10.5 million) cost nearly 200 small traders their livelihoods. Small-food and clothing traders were banished to the smelly cellar of the flash new building while regal stores selling expensive fancy clothing, pefume and furniture fill the upper floors.
An online-article posted by the Guardian News in Britain says that flea markets exist in many European countries and the western world. They are places where people can find the most delectable and collectable things.
In my view, I think the Hai Ba Trung Flea Market is definitely a cultural and trading place of interest – and has been so for 60 years or more. It should be left alone. Cleaned up a little, but left alone. One more relocation may kill such a fascinating part of the city. — VNS