Hoi An Stories and Tips

Buying boxes on the market

The market in Hoi Ann was only a five minute walk away from the hotel and so my wife and I decided to venture out and investigate. Now I’m a bit of a sucker for markets and just love the whole deal. I enjoy the hustle and bustle, the negotiations and bartering, the variety of goods, and the colours from natural produce and man-made products. My wife, however, has a less romantic view of things and will comment on the noise, the predatory nature of the stall-holders, the sameness of the stalls and the smells of the decaying fruit and meat juices. I guess we’re seeing exactly the same scene but through different glasses.

My wife had seen some wooden boxes for chopsticks and had convinced me that I would be a good idea to buy one so that we’d get better use out of them. I’m sure the logic is flawed but I bought in to the argument and set out to find one. It wasn’t going to be difficult and soon we were examining a row of boxes on a stall. Now it’ important to remember that some cultures, including Vietnam fail to recognise the English trend to "just look" and soon we were in dialogue with the young women on the stall.

We soon gave up the idea of telling her that we did not intend to buy tonight as she showed us her wide choice of boxes. Momentarily I was distracted as I saw a box that might be ideal for my Bridge Cards and when I found that they sold a box for two packs I was sold on the idea. I was led off this stall on to another and soon was being showed a great card box at an unrealistic price of $24. I smiled politely and said that it was too expensive at which point she reduced the price to $22 and offered me the calculator to enter my "bid". I usually start at a third of the asking price so enter $7 into the machine. She replied with "my God" but promptly reduced the price to $20. I shrugged and smiled and reached for the calculator and re-entered $7. She was un-phased and again entered her price by a couple of dollars. At this point I recalled that I was not carrying dollars so entered into the spirit of the bidding war by suggesting that I’d only pay 100,000 dongs for the box. That clearly was unacceptable.

At this point both my wife and I had forgotten about the chopsticks box and we set off from the stall with the stallholder pursuing us. Now we were bidding in Dongs and 100,000 (about £3.00) was the maximum I’d pay for the box. I finally said that we would not trade and she came down to 130,000, but my now I was playing hard ball and had the scent of victory. "No" I said firmly "I will only pay 100,000". Another few steps and I heard those words "OK, I do business. Come back to my stall".

We headed back and completed the trade and just as we were heading off the woman from the chop stick box stall re-appeared (almost from nowhere) clutching the box. "You buy from me, sir" she said pleadingly.
I now recalled my original objective and we started the interchange of offers. Once again she started at high $20’s and I, convinced that the box was worth no more than my card box converted rapidly to Dongs after the opening sortie of dollars and the price headed rapidly down (a little like the recent crash of the FTSE) until we agreed 100,000 Dongs.
She seemed happy with the deal and I certainly was. The box was checked over and I reached for my wallet. I didn’t have enough Dongs and needed the ATM. I could see the disbelief on the young girl’s face when I said that I’d return.

Off we headed for the ATM, which was only around the corner. Card in, pin number entered, amount typed in and then ... Card returned but no money. We waited and waited and waited. But still no cash! Guess I must have hit the wrong button (I hope I did). This has happened to me once before so I decided to have another go with the machine next to it. Same process, but this time I got cash and a receipt. I’ll just need to keep an eye on my account when I get back home.

The money was safely placed in my wallet and we headed back to collect the chopstick box. Admittedly she didn’t look too surprised and I gave the box the once over before handing over my 100,000 Dong note. Three happy people – the trader, my wife and I.

Aren’t markets wonderful places?

Where else could I have such great entertainment for only £6.00

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