|MARKET OF BEAUTY: Đông Ba Market is a large trading centre imbued with the tradition of the ancient capital Huế. Photo from the market's Facebook page|
Mai Trang Linh
Returning to the central province of Thừa Thiên Huế after more than two years of lockdown due to the pandemic, Lưu Hoàng Long and his wife, a Vietnamese Australian, chose first to visit Đông Ba Market, the biggest traditional local shopping centre in the ancient royal city of Huế.
The couple and a group of overseas Vietnamese who started their trip through the country early this month from their native home in the northern coastal city of Hải Phòng could not help but be surprised at the changes in the market.
Besides the usual crowded and busy atmosphere and familiar hospitality of sellers, the visitors were amazed at the changes, particularly the trade promotion programmes for traditional handicrafts -- one of the most attractions of the market.
Looking at the pop-up booths displaying different kinds of traditional hats, the young couple were lured by bright designs of conical hats made of lotus and bamboo leaves, which were all sold at promotion prices.
Long and his wife said they were pleased to see the market was well organised and cleaner, so it was easier for them to walk around to enjoy.
"I see sellers smiling with us whenever we pass by, even when we do not buy anything from them. This is very different from when we were often stopped with an enticement to purchase something," said Long.
"We feel like guests, not just customers, when visiting."
Nguyễn Thị Minh Hiếu, a resident of Huế, said Đông Ba Market had changed for the better, and traders in the market had remarkably improved their behaviour.
Customers not only benefit from promotion prices but are also greeted as guests. This is different from the past when prices were not controlled, which confused many visitors and gave a bad impression, according to Hiếu.
In April 2022, almost all booths of confectionery, Huế souvenirs and specialities offered discounts from 5 to 20 per cent.
The programme contributed to business efficiency and helped consumers increase shopping and make savings during the pandemic.
|HUE HIGHLIGHT: A visit to Đông Ba Market is a 'must' for travellers to the ancient city:. It is one of the city's oldest markets, offering specialities from the central region. -—Photo from the market's Facebook page|
According to an official, the Huế City authorities upgraded the market infrastructure and guided small traders to improve their behaviour towards customers to get such positive changes.
“Đông Ba Market is a large trading centre imbued with the traditional beauty of the ancient capital Huế. Through many generations, it is still keeping its value. Therefore, Huế and its residents want to take advantage of the market's traditional inherent beauty to develop local tourism," Secretary of the city's Party Committee Phan Thiên Định said:
Huế has invested about VNĐ10 billion in upgrading the market's infrastructure in addition to re-planning the entire market area from Tràng Tiền to Gia Hội bridges and Chương Dương Road to set the long-term direction for the market in the future.
As a result, since tourism reopened, more and more visitors to Đông Ba Market have found it worthwhile to go shopping there.
"These are the first encouraging changes promising a breakthrough to develop the 'Đông Ba Market' brand in the near future," Định said.
Nguyễn Sanh Nghi, deputy head of Đông Ba Market Management Board, said that to attract tourists, the board urged sellers to stick price tags on their products and followed a motto of "Đông Ba civilisation and hospitality."
Nghi said Đông Ba was the first traditional market in the country to apply information technology by building its own application "Đông Ba Market" based on smart devices to create an online shopping channel for those who could not go to the market in person.
After a long period of closure during the pandemic, Đông Ba Market reopened in early April to welcome the first international visitors from Thailand.
Many small traders in the market wanted to give them a good impression on the first day of returning to Huế, so they wore áo dài (traditional dress) to welcome them.
From then on, the market continuously received an increasing number of tourists.
During recent national holidays, the market welcomed nearly 6,000 visitors a day.
Dirk Van Wesemael, a tourist from Belgium, said he had visited Việt Nam seven times, and Đông Ba Market was always his most unforgettable destination.
He said Huế and Đông Ba Market made him comfortable because of the people and that he could enjoy a wide variety of delicious food and drinks.
Unique historical beauty
Even in the period of integration and development with fierce competition against supermarkets and large trading centres, Đông Ba Market still holds a special position in the hearts of every Huế resident that cannot be replaced.
A visit to this market is a 'must' for travellers to Huế. It is one of the city's most famous and oldest markets, offering specialities from the central region.
Lying on the north bank of the Hương (Perfume) River, at around 100m to the north of Tràng Tiền Bridge, Đông Ba Market was completed in 1899 under the reign of King Thành Thái (1889-1907).
Having undergone ups and downs and several restorations, the 120-year-old market retains its architectural and cultural features and attracts many tourists at home and abroad.
With an area of more than 47,600sq.m, the market extends from Gia Hội Bridge to Tràng Tiền Bridge. One side of the market is the romantic Hương River, while the main road is on Trần Hưng Đạo Street.
The market houses more than 2,700 stalls of about 1,800 business households. About 60 categories of goods from high-end to popular standards are traded, creating jobs for thousands of workers.
As a market with a large volume of goods, it is crowded and bustling every day from morning until evening.
Visitors can enjoy products imbued with the culture of the ancient capital, such as royal tea, nón bài thơ (conical hat inscribed with one or two verses), sesame candy, fish sauce and dried lotus seeds. It is also a paradise for local food.
|VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE: Đông Ba Market is on the north bank of the Hương (Perfume) River, around 100m to the north of Tràng Tiền Bridge. It was built under the reign of King Thành Thái (1889-1907). — Photo from the market's Facebook page|
Đông Ba Market is like a miniature Huế, and visiting will help you find many specialities and understand the traditional beauty of the former royal capital city. VNS