Life Life

04/07/2018 - 07:54

The highland trading fair

In the center of Hong Ha Commune (A Luoi District), there exists a bustling and hustling "fair” that takes place every month on the 25th. The fair does not serve only as a gathering of highland agricultural products but also it represents the image of a primitive market of the hilly region.

A Corner of the Fair at Hong Ha

Specialties of the Local Hilly Region

Roughly 100sqm in area, the fair only presents products originating from the local mountains and forests, as well as the costumes of the Co Tu, Pa Co ethnic minorities .

A Moong Ty, an official of the People's Committee of Hong Ha Commune patted my shoulder, "How lucky you are to show up here today; It’s the day of the local fair!" When I asked why the 25th of the month was chosen, A Moong Tu said: "That’s not at allan accidental choice. The 25th marks the end of the locals’ monthly treks to the forest to gather their forest produce, so it is the time the products are abundant enough to form a trading fair. On other days, fresh specialties, if any, can be otherwise taken to the daily market. Ethnic locals have no idea as to what a "highland fair" is; they are only aware of a reserved area next to the office of the Commune People's Committee managed by commune officials, for monthly meetings. Every month, the locals mark the 25th on their calendar and take all available produce, from vegetables and fruits to fish, snails, hill frogs, and even local pork, to the market.  

Hong Ha trading fair includes 5 stalls, representing 5 hamlets of the commune. It is funded by the People's Committee of the commune as regards expenses of construction and management. Besides, the project also received help from locals since the beginning. They contributed bamboo trees or wood shafts procured from their gardens. Young men helped chop down bamboos and collected sedge from the forest while the elder lent a hand in knitting the booths and roofs. The fair had been in operation since April 2018..

"Many a little makes a mickle”. Thanks to help from each villager, the fair grows to form such a busy place as it is today”, A Moong Ty said cheerfully on talking about the market. He added “If you want to know the finest specialties of the fair, come and see members of the communal farmer club. Certain produce shown here in the fair appeals to not only locals, but also passers-by travelling on Highway 49. They from time to time drop in for them.

Le Thac, Chairman of the Farmer Club of Hong Ha Commune introduced a special fish species native to hilly terrain called Xanh fish (Green fish). This fish from streams in the hills is freshly caught by local fishermen, brought to the market and quickly sold out.

Nguyen Van Hoang (A Rong Hamlet), a farmer who catches stream fish for a living, said that every day he spent about 3 hours netting this fish in the local streams and gained roughly 2-3 kg of fish; each could be sold for 120-150 thousand dong (depending on what types of fish). Netted fish was to be quickly sold within the day as the people here did not ... use refrigerators at all. Xanh fish, in particular, was sold in the market or at food stalls at the tourist site of ​​the Parle stream for various dishes such as onion steamed, grilled, or klèng (chopped intestine) Xanh fish.

Sun-dried pork at Hong Ha trading fair

Besides varieties of vegetables cultivated along the banks of creeks and streams, at Hong Ha trading fair one also finds wild banana flowers and frogs, especially loved by visitors. With only 15-20 thousand dong each, lowlanders bought these flowers to cook their soup whose taste is quite reminiscent of the ethnics’ hilly homeland.  

Safety or Refund

On a quick visit round in the market one could see clean, tidy stalls and hear people converse in Katu and Kinh languages while doing “business”. Each stall had a specific price list for each type of farm product. The locals were honest and never of a mind to overcharge anyone.

Ms Ho Thi Nang (A Rong hamlet), a stall owner, offered us, in her broken Kinh language, a liter of natural honey. On knowing that we came from the lowlands, she poured out a cup of honey and invited us to taste, insisting, “This is real honey. No ants or flies seemed attracted to it though it had been left here since early morning. I know only real honey can make you remember my stall to return next time. Every day, the People's Committee of Hong Ha Commune collects 10 thousand dong from each of the stall owners for maintenance, cleaning, and order keeping. Le Thac said the fair had been a great boon, creating jobs for local people, reducing the number of street vendors while helping popularize the local produce from the mountains, and consequently helping farmers to find a market for their home products

Holding a bunch of vegetables in his hand, Le Thac asserted: "Vegetables here, except for the wild types, do not boast very attractive looks, just because people never spray pesticides, or even use fertilizers. The vegetables grow green simply thanks to available nutrition from the land, streams, and rivers.

Green fish, specialties of the hilly land

Ho Nhu Ban (Nhu Hy Hamlet), owner of a stall in the Hong Ha trading fair, said: “Our farm products do not only serve the tourists, but the locals also buy them for their daily meals. If our customers, especially the tourists, find them unsafe, how would they come back to us? Vegetables, local pork, fish and snails caught from the mountain streams, are all sold out within the day. As for the honey, its is real natural product obtained from the wild. To ensure farm products for sale to be safe, officials of Hong Ha commune frequently reminded every farming household to grow and exploit produce in view of clean and pro-environment agricultural methods. "Safety or Refund” has always been the most important selling motto for local produce here.

After each fair session, on the 25th every month, at nightfall, people in the villages often gather for singing and social fun  after a day of trading. Hong Ha trading fair is not only a place where agricultural products are sold but also for locals to socialize and interact with the community.

By Ha Nguyen