Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

By Thanh Hue   April 24, 2020 | 09:10 pm GMT+7
At Hanoi's largest vegetable wholesale market in Long Bien, porters and vendors tell of pandemic endurance.
Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

Pham Thi Hue, 45, has been a porter at Hanoi’s Long Bien Market for 11 years. From northern Nam Dinh Province, she has never seen the market as deserted. “It is quiet because of the pandemic. I have no job, nor clients. Some days, I go home empty handed,” Hue said, adding her only expenses were rent and the cart fee. Her daughter is currently attending university.

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

Trinh Thuc Thuy, 50, has 17 years of experience as a porter. Having planned to pay off his debts by year end, he has seen his income cut by half. “The pandemic has raged for nearly three months. I did not have enough money for food. At the market I can at least earn some money”, he said. Thuy spent all his savings to build a house last year.

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

Pham Thi Cuc is unsure whether she should return home or wait for more customers at 1:30 a.m. on April 16, 2020. “The place I am sitting used to be filled with trucks. This is the first time in 20 years I have seen it this quiet. Fewer clients mean fewer things to do, so our daily spend is less,” she maintained. 

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

Nguyen Thi Hien, 50, from northern Phu Tho Province, had remained home the past few months to care for her children and avoid infection. Now, she cannot afford the VND427,000 ($18) per month to rent a cart, needing whatever remains to treat a heart deficiency. She has returned to work. “My health is poor. I always wear a mask and gloves, going out only when necessary. Someone gave methe mask I am using.”

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

Le Thi Hop, 59, has worked as a trash collector by day and porter by night for seven years. From suburban Hanoi, she has since given up her day job in fear of infection. Depending on weight and distance, Hop earns up to VND20,000 ($0.85) per delivery. “I have more time, but only earn around VND15,000 ($0.64) some days, which is not enough to buy food. Often, I have to borrow money,” she said, adding she has not been back to her hometown since Lunar January.

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

Dao Thi Tan is one of the most senior "citizens" at the night market. Selling sticky rice, she rents a five-meter-square room nearby and only works 15-20 days a month due to ill health. To avoid surplus, she suspended business for more than two weeks. “I am poor, so I have been given rice and other food during the pandemic. I do not spend much, I am fine.”

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

“I am old, and my back hurts. I cannot pull heavy carts like I used to. Everyone is experiencing difficulties due to the epidemic, and empty carts are common. I must save every penny to live,” said Truong Quang Ta, 56, from northern Hung Yen Province.

Peddling for life at Hanoi night market

At 2 a.m. on the morning of April 16, 2020, Dang Thi Lien makes a delivery for VND30,000-70,000 ($1.3-3) a cartload. “My husband used to do this but he got knuckle problems and quit, so I took over,” Lien said, adding she bought her cart from a friend coming  her hometown in northern Hung Yen Province. Previously, traders and buyers had to undergo Covid-19 screening, with no infections recorded to date.

 
 
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