Visiting mountain markets, one way to explore life in Binh Lieu

Update: 24/03/2023
Less crowded than markets in the lowlands, the market in the border district of Binh Lieu in Quang Ninh province is no less bustling and colorful. It has long been a meeting place for the local ethnic minorities.

Girls of Dao Thanh Phan go to the market on the fourth day of the fourth lunar month (Photo: VOV)

Anyone who has ever visited Binh Lieu remembers the tơn market. It used to hold 6 sessions every lunar month on odd days, but lately it convenes every Sunday.

The items sold here have become more diverse. In addition to agricultural and forestry products, farm tools, honey, and medicinal herbs, now there are consumer goods and food brought from the lowlands and neighboring districts.

The market is a place to trade, buy, and sell goods of the local Kinh, Tay, Dao, San Chi, and Chinese ethnic groups, listen to the Then singing of the Tay, the Soong Co love songs of the San Chi, and the Pa Dung singing of the Dao, play folk games, or find a romantic partner.

Even closer to the Chinese border is the Dong Van market at the foot of Cao Ba Lanh mountain. This small food market is memorable for its soot-blackened roofs.

Tourists who have never tried the stir-fried noodle that is a specialty of Dong Van market and a traditional dish of the Dao, Tay, and San Chi groups havent been to Binh Lieu.

Binh Lieu stir-fried noodle can be found elsewhere, but the best is found only at the  Dong Van market. The rice noodles are rolled out and then cut into flat threads. Other ingredients include half-fat-and-half-lean meat, vegetables, and bean sprouts.

Vy Thi Bich, who sells the dish at Dong Van market, told VOV that every morning, she gets up at 3 am and grinds and coats flour until 7 or 8 o'clock to make the noodles to sell.

“Whenever there is a customer, I begin to stir-fry. During festivals, dozens of kilos of rice are used to make rice noodle flour. The ingredients for stir-frying are brought by the customers or ordered in advance. The dish is always best served hot,” said Bich.

Stir-fried noodle is a special dish of Dong Van market. (Photo: VOV)

The Dong Van market in Binh Lieu opens on the fourth day of the fourth lunar month. It is a special market of the Dao ethnic people, with special cultural performances, a contest to embroider flowers on women's clothes, and a contest to knit rattan or bamboo frames and carry rice seeds.

The Dao believe that the fourth day of the fourth lunar month is the worst day of the year, that no matter what they do, it will not be favorable. So they put aside all work and go to the market.

The Dao in their red shirts, the San Chi in their blue shirts, and the Tay in their indigo shirts, boys and girls, young and old, throng the crowded market.

Duong Tai Mui, a local, said, “I follow the traditional custom. On this day, I don't go to work, I go to the market to play. It’s acceptable to meet friends and ex-lovers and talk with them happily.”

Everyone chats, shares gossip, and participates in tug-of-war or push stick contests. Trang Si Sinh, another local, said, “I go to the market to see my friends and have fun with them. I always come here, even though I live far from the market. Sometimes I have so much fun, I don’t get home on time.”

Binh Lieu district will soon open a night market, enlivened by traditional folk songs and games. It will be a place to come and enjoy the food and buy OCOP products and other local specialties.

Truong Giang

Source: VOVWORLD - - March 23, 2023