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Hue rural markets: flavors savoring, locals engaging

Since the old days, markets have always been an important part of socio-economic life of a community. Markets could take place on a half day, full day or periodically like a fair. Market could be either an exchange ground, a center of festival and performances. Their names often refer to the village name, the location or the specialized. Of course, markets are incomplete without delicious food and traditional crafts selling. Visiting market is a way to gain a deep understanding of the local culture and lifestyle. Therefore, traditional markets are an indispensable part of your travel itinerary. “Hue rural markets, flavors savoring, locals engaging” opens up interesting stories and delicacies worth exploring.

1. Slow travel through Hue rural markets while sleeping in a cradle

At early age, Hue babies travel to the markets through the lullaby. In this land of poetry and folklore song, we don’t tell bedtime stories but sing lullaby verses.

“Lull the baby to sleep deeply.

So that mum has spare time to go to the market to buy lime for eating betel nut.

Go to Cầu market, Quán market to buy lime.

Go to Nam Pho market to buy areca nut.

Go to Dinh market to buy betel leaves.

Dinh market only sells boy’s clothes.

Trieu Son market sells quality conical hat.

Mau Tai market sells fine needles”.

The young mother or sister discretely urge the baby to sleep deeply so she has more time to go to the market. If you know Hue lifestyle, going to the market “Đi Chợ” is not about shopping for commodities only. Going to the market is a journey of many pleasures. The mother wishes to travel slowly through many regions, finding the best products. The lullaby song showcases many interesting stories and cultural assets behind. Let’s unveil.

But why does Dinh Market only sell boy’s clothes? Why Trieu Son sell hats and Mau Tai sell needles? Each name is a cultural story. Each product is a local pride, a tradition patiently passed on through generations. So, shall we slow travel through Hue rural markets.

2. What are the best Hue rural markets to explore?

This article takes you on a slow travel journey through interesting markets in Hue. At each place, we will tell you the legend of the name, the delicacies and traditional craft that are curiously interesting. Regarding famous Dong Ba market, Thanh Toan ancient tile roofed bridge market, please refer to the following posts.

Read more:

2.1. Vy Da market: the land of garden and poetry

  • Name meaning: Vy Da means the immense grassland
  • Things to eat: Mussel mixed rice
  • Things to see: Princely residences “Phu De”, Con Hen Island

Vy Da is a five-hundred-year ancient village, lying at the eastern edge of Hue center. The village name means immense grassland. Royalty and mandarins chose this area to build their residences thanks to the greenery and convenient location. While exploring Vy Da market, do not miss to wander around the idyllic garden houses.

Poets, intellectual men lived and frequently visit this neighborhood. As a result, even market activities evoked a delicate culture, titled “Three DON’Ts”.

Don’t bargain hard to buy low and sell too high;

Don’t trade fake stuffs;

Don’t sell spoiled meats, shrimps, fishes to kid, elderly, and man (going to the market on his wife’s behalf, since she is just giving birth to a baby).  

Though the market wears a modern flare today, it still recalls many authenticities. You can make a detour to visit Con Hen Island. This is the most recommended place to enjoy the famous mussel mixed rice and sweet corn soup.

2.2. Nam Pho Market and the best claim Udon styled shrimp soup

  • Name meaning: Nam Pho means five ancient villages
  • Things to eat: “Banh canh Nam Pho” Udon styled shrimp soup
  • Things to see: Garden, village pagodas, lagoon and rice field

After passing by Vy Da, we arrive at Nam Pho. This name comes from the fact that the neighborhood includes five adjacent villages. It is a fertile land to plant areca trees. “Buy areca nut at Nam Pho market, and betel leaves at Dinh market”. Local usually call this Hue rural market “Cho Mai” as it used to gather only in the morning.

The westerners may express the warm welcome with a glass of champagne. The Japanese greet with tea ceremony. While Vietnamese regards the betel nut offering as the beginning of any conversation. Hence, choosing a quality lime is so important that you must hop through many markets. A thoughtful woman must know where to buy good lime, fragrant betel leaves, sweet areca nut to show her cleverness. She ought the find the right product at the right place.

Early twentieth century, Nguyen Phuc Binh, the 6th prince of King Gia Long had his residence in this area. He was a very rich and successful businessmen. In springtime, to cheer up his guests, Binh organized “Gia Lac market fair” that stretched along many villages of Ngoc Anh, Lai The to Vi Da.  

It is convenient to call by Nam Pho market if you are heading to Thuan An beach, Dam Chuon lagoon or the craft villages of Thanh Tien, Sinh.

Beside Banh Canh Nam Pho, the udon styled shrimp soup is the village pride. Search for Madame Du, who has spent most of her life mastering this trade. Most of ambulant eateries selling these delicacies in Hue, depart from the village at noon every day.

Slow travel through Hue local markets
Hue rural market, a place of meeting and sharing

2.3. No market and bolero music

  • Name meaning: No means crossbow in Vietnamese
  • Things to eat: Rice cake with fermented anchovy sauce
  • Things to see: Village temple, Uncle’s Ho childhood house, bird cage craft workshop

The small canal runs from Nam Pho village to join Pho Loi river, which pass by Chợ Nọ market. It used to be a bustling river meeting point. The annual sampan race on this river is one of the most sought after. According to historic record, when first founding clan arrived here, they found a heritage crossbow of Cham people (the former dwellers). Therefore, Nọ “the crossbow” was chosen as the village name.

There are many interesting things to eat that rural market. The quality is good and price reasonable. You may try rice cake served with fermented anchovy sauce. Equally, you may shop some blacksmith craft products or dried leaves to make herbal drinks.

The nearby ancient temple is not only associated with Uncle Ho’s childhood but also explains a local expression “Bolero music of No market”. This proves that on the sixties of past century, Hue was a centre of education and culture. Nguyễn Đức Mai, a student of Hue university, brought the bolero music from Spain to perform at the communal house courtyard every weekend. The activity was so impressive that it imprinted in the mind of Hue citizen and created an unusual pairing “imported Bolero” and “rustic No market”.  

Morning cycling to Nam Pho, Cho No market

2.4. Dinh market and Gia Hoi old town

  • Name meaning: Dinh means Palace. Dinh market was next to Nguyen Lord’s Palace
  • Things to eat: Hue beef noodle soup, noodle mixed with jelly fish.
  • Things to see: Old quarter, Chinese assembly halls, prince residences.

Across the Perfume River to the opposite side of Vy Da, Nam Pho village is Gia Hoi old town, with Dinh market. Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat established his palace on this land since 17 century. As a result, local resident named the larger commercial centre here “Palace market” or “Dinh market”. Michel Duc Chaigneau in his “Souvernirs de Hue” book described this place as very bustling trade town. Though things have changed dramatically, you still have many heritage and an old town charm to retrace Gia Hoi and Dinh market.

There one interesting question not-yet-to-answer? Why did Dinh market sell only boy’s clothes? Locals narrated that the Nguyen Phuc Binh, the 6th prince of King Gia Long was late to have a heir. He had ordered to make boy’s clothes and sell at Dinh market at cheap price in a hope of earning a good blessing.

There are many good eateries in Dinh market, Chi Lang Street. You can opt for many nice coffee shops in Gia Hoi old town. But there is one unusual dish you may dare to try “Bún Giấm Nuốc”, the vermicelli with jelly fish. Look for it after you cross Gia Hoi bridge.

Locals take ferry on Perfume River to go from Vy Da, Con Hen Island to Dinh market, Gia Hoi old town

2.5. Bao Vinh market and craft villages

  • Name meaning: Same as the village name, a gone-by flourishing trade town.
  • Things to eat: Fried Tet rice cake, farm product
  • Things to see: Ancient houses, craft villages, handicraft workshop

Bao Vinh Market is located at the junction where the Perfume River, Dong Ba River, Cua Hau River and Bach Yen River rejoin. When the nearby Thanh Ha port was fading, the communities of “Minh Huong” Chinese dwellers moved to live in Bao Vinh. They built shophouses and promoted trade with ships from China, India, Japan. Around Bao Vinh, there were many craft villages such as mother pearl inlay, brick, flour making. After a short ferry across the river, we can find craft villages of Mau Tai, Thanh Tien, Sinh and Tien Non.

Therefore, visiting Bao Vinh Market and surrounding villages, you will learn many craft products. On Tet holidays, the market town will be colorful with traditional Tet products such as Thanh Tien paper flowers, Sinh folk paintings.

A typical shop house in Bao Vinh

2.6. Thong market and Luu Bao rice paper making village

  • Name meaning: Thông means “passing through”. It marked the canalization of An Ninh river to rejoin Perfume River
  • Things to eat: Wet rice paper of Lựu Bảo, Kim Long candied ginger
  • Things to see: Garden house in Kim Long, ancient village temples, Mandarin mausoleum

Thông market is located on the An Ninh River, connecting the Perfume River near Thien Mu Pagoda and merging with this river near Bao Vinh. King Gia Long ordered to dig this stream through to facilitate trade by waterways and flood control. The market is named Thong, means “passing through”.

Next to Thong market is the traditional craft village of Luu Bao, famous for making rice paper. Wet rice cakes are also a morning favorite that you should try. Thong market is also the place where boats bring agricultural products from the mountain, shrimp, and fish from the sea. Especially, ginger come here from upstream of the Perfume River, making the famous Kim Long Hue Ginger Jam.

When joining Kim Long green treasures day tour from Hue, you will pass through Thong market. Take time to visit craft villages, garden houses and a unique mandarin mausoleum.

2.7. Ben Ngu market and “the old man”

  • Name meaning: Bến Ngự means the wharf of King’s boat
  • Things to eat: Rice porridge, especially the “dragon blood” rice porridge served with braised goby.
  • Things to see: Memorial house of Phan Boi Chau “The old man of Ben Ngu”, ancient temple, Phu Cam Cathedral.

Under the reign of King Minh Mang, the procession to Nam Giao esplanade sailed from the Perfume River to the An Cuu – Phu Cam tributary and stopped here, before continuing by road. The king’s wharf was called Ben Ngu, next to where the market is now.

This place is also associated with the old age of patriot Phan Boi Chau when he was imprisoned by the French in Hue. You can visit the memorial house of “The Old Man of Ben Ngu” not far away.

Stretching along the river and shaded trees, the wet market also sells interesting products, some from mountainous area. Visitors often come here independently or on a food tour, or a cooking class with artisans.

When coming to Ben Ngu market, you may taste a bowl of red rice porridge served with well-braised goby of Mrs. Thuc.

This lady spent more than 50 years selling porridge to many people. She must have many interesting stories to share.

2.8. An Cuu market, the best alternative to Dong Ba market

  • Name meaning: Same as the village, by An Cựu river.
  • Things to eat: Mixed cooked corn
  • Things to see: Thanh Toàn village, An Dinh Palace and the foodie alley

An Cựu market is located on the ground of former village temple, by the river of same name. Before, the original market was 300m away and known as Đường Ngang market, meaning horizontal road. It was part of the French route mandarin, connecting the Perfume River and An Cuu River. This is a century old market and is one of the four most important market in Hue.

Thanks to central location and diverse commodities, An Cuu is an ideal alternative for Dong Ba market, if one is looking for more authentic shopping experience. You can wander to nearby An Dinh Palace, Redemptorist Church and other colonial monuments.

If coming during the morning, don’t forget to try the mixed cooked corn, topped with mashed mung bean. Just a bite and you will understand the creativity, thoughtfulness of Hue farmer who invent a healthy dish from cheap ingredients.

Mixed cooked corn, a favourite healthy breakfast

2.9. Thuy Bieu market, the land of literature

  • Name meaning: Same name as the commune, including Nguyet Bieu, Luong Quan village
  • Things to eat: Fresh garden fruits
  • Things to see: Bronze casting, incense stick making village, Tiger arena, Thuy Bieu village

Thuy Bieu village is very interesting thanks to its rustic charm. More precisely, it is not only one spot gathering but stretch from Phuong Duc ward to Nguyet Bieu village. Along the road, you will see many farmers selling the garden produces like jackfruit, pineapple, banana by side handicraft workshops.

Hence, once you cycling around Thuy Bieu village, don’t forget to stop by the market and cheerfully interact with farmer vendors.

2.10. Other traditional Hue markets

As mentioned, the traditional market space in Hue is very rich and unique. Inside the Citadel, there are many markets associated with the ancient royal life such as Tay Loc Market, Thuan Hoa Market, Xep Thuan Loc Market, Cau Kho Market, etc.

Besides, there are also many markets along the lagoon, the semi-mountain area selling many typical products such as Cho Niu near Tam Giang lagoon, My Loi in Phu Loc, Sam market, Dam Chuon lagoon market, etc. We will introduce in other posts.

3. What is the best plan to slow travel through Hue rural markets?

3.1. Select suitable means of transport and itineraries

If you are fond of slowness, you certainly understand that allocating enough of time and freedom is essential to browse local markets. Go to market, again, is not only about shopping but to experience savor local flavors, share stories or handpick traditional crafts. As a matter of fact, you can travel on foot or rent a bicycle, take a cyclo or taxi ride. Take a look at below map or read more about the essential guide to have an overview of market attractions.

Map of Hue surroundings and market locations.

Extra note:

  • Northern bank area and Hue Imperial City (1a): You can combine visiting the Citadel, with inner city markets, and Dong Ba market. The evening cyclo food tour also ride pass these markets.
  • South bank area – West Street (1b): Visit Ben Ngu market, An Cuu market
  • Gia Hoi Street Area (1c): Explore Gia Hoi Old Quarter, Dinh Market
  • Con Hen – Vy Da area (1d): Explore Vy Da Market. Continuing to go straight to the East is Nam Pho and Cho No.
  • Kim Long area (2a): You will explore Thong market
  • Thuy Bieu area (2b): You combine to visit Thuy Bieu village
  • Thanh Toan area (2c): You visit Thanh Toan ancient tile roofed market.
  • Bao Vinh Thanh Tien area (2d): Visit Bao Vinh market.

3.2. Book a Slow Travel Tour with Hue rural market experience

Slow Travel Hue organizes slow cycling and cyclo tours of the countryside. Visitors always have the opportunity to visit and experience traditional markets.

Stay near the market is first priority, near the river comes second”. Since the old days, Vietnamese chose where there was a market, near the river to build up residence. At the same time, the populations leverage the trade and the dynamic of the river, the market. Hue is a land of slow living, cultural heritage. The rural markets are the places where the typical culture of the region is preserved as well as tasty delicacies. No matter how much time you have, don’t miss these exciting spaces. Slow travel through Hue rural markets is a journey of flavors savoring, locals engaging.

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