The simple delights of a market tour in Quảng Bình

Đồng Hới is the capital of Quảng Bình Province, but it lacks the hustle and bustle of other big cities in Việt Nam. If you want some excitement, you need to wake up early and make your way to the morning fish market by the graceful Nhật Lệ River.

Years ago, Đồng Hới was but a stopping point for those who were travelling Phong Nha – Kẻ Bàng National Park. When it became the capital of the province, many of its historical and cultural landmarks became tourist destinations. 

The city is still quiet these days, but by going to the Đồng Hới market in the wee hours in the morning or late afternoon, you’ll see a total different and more vibrant side to the city.

The early bird gets the worm. VNS Photos Thu Quỳnh

Located in the centre of the city, Đồng Hới market is nestled between the Nhật Lệ River and the grand statue of Mother Suốt. It’s the city’s biggest fish market and behind it is the fish wharf with many boats bringing in their catch. 

At dawn, all the boats that sailed at night came back, and those who left at dawn come back in the late afternoon to bring back fresh fish and shrimps, mussels and clams. Small boats dock every day, but bigger boats go out for about two weeks for each trip. They also dock here, making the market also a wholesale market that provides most of the seafood for the whole province.

I love the mornings strolling along the market. The morning sun sprays soft golden rays on the river, small boats returning give a romantic and quiet feeling. The typical noises of a fish market can still be heard, but because of the low volume of trading, the sound is quieter. 

The sun shed its golden light on the silver fish scales, making them twinkle joyfully. Small vendors in neighbouring markets or streetfood sellers come here to get their stock for the day. Some ladies also come here to fetch their family a fresh seafood treat. Most of the buying and selling happens after a chat after accompanied by laughter. It feels great to start the day in such an upbeat and cheerful mood. 

When you’re done walking along the seafood stalls, you can then visit the vegetable vendors, who brought their fresh cuts from the garden to the street. 

The fruit and vegetables freshly harvested from local gardens or cooked into morning treats for breakfast were all modestly displayed on a bamboo mat or basket. The simplest way of presenting your products. 

This simplicity and uncovered earnestness make you want to open up and reach out to ask about the strange way people here handle their fruit. They cut their jackfruit into big round pieces, not like anywhere else. But beware if you have no idea what language you’re hearing. Yes, it’s Vietnamese, but spoken with such strong consonants and slightly twisted vowels, so you’d have to listen to it for a few times before you can figure out. 

SMALLER IS BETTER: These little anchovies make the best fish sauce after being soaked in sea salt and left to sit for six months.

A small thing to note: this green section of the market stays open only until 7am. All the vendors then move inside the big market to give way to traffic.

So if you want to see what is bought early in the morning, wake up a bit earlier, with the sunrise. 

A fun way to start your day!

Lê Thu Quỳnh – VIET NAM NEWS

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