Relief for vendors as Ben Thanh Market reopens

By Dat Nguyen, Dang KhoaOctober 5, 2021 | 04:56 pm PT
The reopening of HCMC’s iconic Ben Thanh Market has brought joy to local vendors who are relishing the opportunity to resume selling after months of closure.

"I was so glad to be able to sell again that I couldn’t sleep the first night," said vegetable vendor Nguyen Anh Phuong Tuesday as she handed vegetables over to a customer.

As one of the first vendors to be allowed to resume business at the market on Sunday, Phuong got up at 1 a.m. to source goods and entered the market at 4 a.m. to set up her stall. The first customers arrived an hour later.

After four months of closure, seeing and meeting other vendors and familiar customers again was sheer joy, she said.

With only a dozen or so customers in the morning, Phuong left the market at noon to rest before resuming early next day.

Three days after reopening, the Ben Thanh Market in District 1 had around 70 stalls operating on Tuesday. This is less than five percent of pre-pandemic numbers. Market managers have sought to control the number of people showing up as a Covid-19 safety measure.

Most vendors sold meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and other food items. All of them are fully vaccinated and market managers have set up transparent screens at their stalls to prevent contagion.

Although vendors reported higher prices and difficulties in sourcing goods, most did not raise their own prices in order to have customers coming back.

Vendor Luong Thi Chi prepares fish at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City on October 5, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dang Khoa

Vendor Luong Thi Chi prepares fish at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Oct.5, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dang Khoa

District 1 resident Nguyen Thi Phuong Thanh said it was the second time she was going to the market since it reopened and the experience was great.

"I can buy whatever I want, which is better than letting others buy on my behalf," she said, adding that prices of most items had not changed.

The Ben Thanh Market has long been a magnet for both locals and foreign visitors. Before the pandemic, the market used to get 15,000 visitors a day on average.

The market, which has stood at its current location for more than a century, has become more than just a workplace for many vendors who have been selling there for decades.

Luong Thi Chi, who has been selling fish at the market for more than twenty years, was glad that she could get out of the house after months.

"There are few customers, but it is good that I can catch up with people’s lives."

She said she hoped the number of customers would increase in the coming days and there won’t be another closure.

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