The Lunar New Year probably includes many different traditions and festivals in Vietnam. Prominent in some spring tourism activities is Vieng market, a unique market in Nam Dinh where people come to have spiritual beliefs in the form of exchanging physical goods. Interestingly, you won’t find any bargains, but the whole market is filled with smiles and contentment.
Where is Cho Vieng?
Originating from Nam Dinh province, Vieng market spreads into two different areas but remains exclusive in the province. Locals and tourists can visit Vieng Chua market in Nam Giang town or Vieng Phu market in Vu Ban town for identical experiences.
Why is it special?
Vieng Market opens only once a year, on the 8th day of the first lunar month. The myth of the morning hour as the moment of intersection between earth and heaven, where the gods could easily hear prayers, gave rise to the present midnight market tradition. All activities start from midnight on the 7th until dawn on the 8th. The people of Nam Dinh not only in Nam Dinh but the whole country also visit Vieng market when it opens as a tradition. If you have a chance to visit this unusual market, looking at the crowded streets, you will understand how important religious beliefs are in the lives of local residents.
The exchange of material goods is for material purposes, but the spiritual meaning is much more than that. According to the belief of the locals, any business that flourishes will succeed without a hitch that year. The act of buying and selling means to drive away bad luck and bring the owner fortune, happiness and prosperity for the new year. This symbolic exchange is seen as people’s wishes for a happy, successful and prosperous new year.
Besides businessmen, traders, young people also participate in this occasion to exchange and meet new friends, couples go for a walk together to pray for love and happiness. Vieng Market, in addition to the purpose of exchanging goods, also has a number of festival activities such as cock fighting, human chess, puppet show.
Blend in with the crowd and you’ll be impressed to see just about any kind of wares that can be found on the market stalls. Not only traditional crafts, farming products, utensils but also used items can be brought back from many sellers. You can have a lot of bronze souvenirs, as Nam Dinh is recognized for having bronze handicraft products. You can also try smoked veal, a local culinary specialty whose red color is said to bring good luck. People mainly take it with rice wine, and then buy more for their family and friends as a lucky gift.
Things need to notice
As mentioned, it is not advisable to haggle for the essential purpose of earning happiness and prosperity. On the other hand, the seller will not charge too much, so the price is expected to be reasonable and fair. Bargaining at this market means haggling for what you want, which is taboo in local beliefs.
Keep track of your personal belongings
As one of the most famous spring festivals in the Red River Delta region, Vieng Market is definitely bulging, making pickpockets inevitable. Therefore, you should be careful with your belongings such as wallets and mobile phones, as well as be careful with your companions, especially children.
Be aware of traffic jams
Taking place only for one night on the 7th of January (lunar calendar), it could be a once-a-year opportunity to experience it. There are a lot of people across the country pouring into the surrounding streets in cars, scooters or with their own feet, so traffic congestion is predictable. Meanwhile, parking tickets are quite expensive. To spend most of your time productively in a welcoming atmosphere, it’s a good idea to ride a scooter, or park at nearby spots and walk into the crowds.
Location: Cho Vieng, Nam Dinh
Best for: All Visitors
Entrance: N / A
Time: Only January 7 (Lunar calendar)
Distance to city center: 11.4km (7.1 mi)