A Vietnamese market in China

At the Chinese border town of He Kou, there is a market full of Vietnamese products sold by Vietnamese people, who overcome difficulties to improve their lives abroad.

The market's appearance is quite similar to other Vietnamese markets. Most of the products are made in Vietnam; slogans and signboards are written in both Vietnamese and Chinese. Besides, the visitors can experience the flavors of Vietnam through many Vietnamese traditional dishes and drinks. According to people in Lao Cai (the Vietnamese province which borders He Kou), no o­ne can remember the particular date that the market was established, but whenever they need quality goods from Hanoi and other provinces, especially fresh fruits, they come to the market.Some say that in the past, there were some stands owned by Chinese vendors, but now all the sellers and products are from Vietnam. Gradually, the market has become known as the Vietnamese Market.Most of the sellers travel, coming from provinces such as Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, and Nghe An.


The official name of the market is the Commercial and Cultural Center of He Kou, where clothes, cosmetics, telephones, electrical goods, Vietnamese food and fresh fruits are sold. The market has nearly 200 stands. Miss Nguyen Thi Ngan, 16, from Hung Yen province, welcomed us with a smile. "Will you buy something for a present?" she asked. "In fact, most of products here o­nly have suitable prices for the Chinese, who are our regular customers!" Ngan said. For the last four years, Ngan has come to He Kou to sell goods for her relatives. After three years, she could afford to rent o­ne stand o­n her own. Being born into a poor and large family, Ngan dropped out of school early and has had to work far away from her family and homeland. Sometimes, she sends some money to her parents to help them pay school fees for her two younger brothers. Now, her stand is nearly 8 square meters, and contains several kinds of shoes, sandals and cosmetics. The owners of the space are Chinese and Ngan has to pay VND 1 million in monthly rent. In order to be a successful vendor in China, Ngan and many other Vietnamese people in the market have studied Chinese in order to speak it fluently. Ngan lives alone, cooks for herself and listens to a small radio to catch the news of Vietnam.


The Vietnamese community in the market is very united and helpful.Living far away from their country, they share their joys and sorrows with each other. Everyday, many Vietnamese tourists visit the market and buy goods as presents from China. The vendors are able to relieve their homesickness by chatting in Vietnamese with the tourists.


The next vendor we met in the market was Mrs. Pham Thi Huan, 30. This summer she was happy to see her son, who had the rare opportunity to visit his parents after a long time apart.Due to bad luck, Mrs. Huan and her husband have lived in He Kou for the past 7 years, so their son has lived with his grandparents during that time. At present, her life has improved and she concentrates all her attention o­n saving money and sending it to her parents and children.


Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoan, another market vendor, has 4 small children even though she is just over 30 years of age. In the past, her husband was a construction worker but the job was o­nly temporary, so he followed her to China to start a clothing business. Their income is not enough for a large family so they have to rent a small and simple room for everyone. Life is still difficult.


The regular customers of the market are Chinese and people from Lao Cai, who want to purchase quality goods from Vietnam. During the tourist season, business is good for the vendors. Still, most of the Vietnamese vendors hope to save money for a business in their homeland.

By Hoang Thu Ha