This Little Piggy Went to the Chợ (Market)
December 11, 2014
Everyone we've met in Hội An has been incredibly kind an accommodating. During our first week in Hội An we asked the hotel staff at Essence Hotel if they knew of any local language teachers. Apparently this is an uncommon request in the area because they didn't know of anyone who taught English to visitors. Instead of letting the issue drop, Ms. Linh at the hotel paired us with hotel employees who are practicing their English. Ms. Xinh has been giving us language lessons several nights a week and teaching us key phrases for navigating the culture. Ms. Linh also set up a few outings for us in the town (even though we are no longer guests at the hotel) and today we went to the central market with two other hotel employees, Ms. Nhung and Ms. Ngọc. They took us around the different stores and food stalls and taught us keys phrases for buying and bargaining in Vietnamese.
Chợ Hội An
Hội An Market, or chợ Hội An, is mostly food and drink stalls. It's become very touristy over the years, although the locals still go there to buy food for their restaurants and homes. In fact, we saw the owner of the restaurant around the corner from our homestay while we were at the market.
I don't know why I was so fascinated by this, but they have eggs from different birds at the market. I knew intellectually that birds of different sizes have different size eggs, but it's another thing to experience it emotionally. The large eggs are goose eggs, the medium ones are chicken eggs, and I have no idea what the small ones are. Do different eggs taste different? I guess we'll have to find out.
How much is this?
In order to ask someone "how much is this?" you would say 'Cái này bao nhiều tiền?' The english pronunciation would be something like 'keye nigh baugh nee-ew tee-enh'. The market is made up of a bunch of different stalls, some indoors and some outdoors. The indoor/dedicated stalls are ones that people rent to regularly sell their goods. There are also sellers (người bán) on the side of the street with vegetables from their gardens.
If someone tells you a price that's too much you can say 'đắt quá' or 'too expensive. For westerners the initial price they tell you might be 5x what you should pay for it. Ms. Ngọc and Ms. Nhung said there is basically a two-tiered price system here. One for locals, one for tourists.
Once you have declared something too expensive (đắt quá), you can then tell them the price you would like to pay. Our teachers recommended paying half to 2/3 the original price. So if someone says the item is 100,000 VND (about $5 USD), you could say 'Đắt quá. 50,000 VND. Có được không.' which means 'Too expensive. 50,000 VND. Is it ok?'. Then you bargain.
Can I take your picture?
To be polite I wanted to learn to ask if I could take people's picture. So when I approached these women I said ''Tôi muốn chụp ảnh cô.' which means 'I want to take your picture.' The woman in the photo above on the left told our teachers that she's had so many photos taken of her that people will know her in America. I thought that was pretty funny.
I want to buy this one.
To tell someone you want to buy something you can say 'Tôi muốn mua cái này' which means 'I want to buy this one.' To say 'I want to buy that one' you say 'Tôi muốn mua cái kia.' They taught us the phrases for 'this one' and 'that one' since it's easier than learning the names of all the objects that we want to buy. Now we can just point or hold things up!
When Ms. Ngọc was a child, chợ Hội An was where the locals went to buy clothes for holidays, local housewares, and special foods. Because the central market has become so touristy those items are no longer sold there. Instead, clothes and household items are now sold at the private market three buildings down. They took us there next to practice our bargaining and John bought an umbrella (it rains here a lot) for 90,000 VND (which is ~ $4.50). We get such great deals when we're with locals! And that was our morning at the Chợ Hội An.