The market in Hoi Ann is an interesting place to explore as it’s much more than a place for tourists to go and buy their souvenirs. Indeed I’d suggest that’s only a small percentage of the market as the vast majority seems to be responding to the needs of the local community rather than pandering to the whims of the tourist trade. The main walk through seems mainly to be for the visitor to the town as it’s here that you can buy wooden boxes, silk, and lacquer. Turn off the main trek through and you’ll be in touch with where the locals buy their fruit and vegetables, their meat and fish.
There are two good times to visit this part of the market. Around mid day is good because this is when the stall holders are taking a few minutes to recover from their long day. At this time you’ll find many of them asleep on top of their stalls, lying close slabs of fish or their heads resting on top of piles of fruit or vegetables. It makes for an interesting scene. Earlier in the day, at around 6.00am you can watch them bartering with the local fishermen who have landed the night’s catch and are wanting to sell it on to the stall holders. This is a frantic time of day and a real contrast to the peace and serenity of noon.
This market is open for well over 12 hours so if you can’t make the times I’m suggesting you’ll still be able to appreciate the smells and colours that make up the fish and fruit and vegetable market. We saw food-stuffs that we’ve never seen before and some sights that we wouldn’t want to see again. I have to say that the low-point was when we saw a bowl of skinned frogs. I know the hardy ones of you out there will think nothing of that but these had been skinned but were still jumping around the bowl.
But the fruit and vegetables are real fresh and the colours bright and rich, but it does help if you have a local expert who can help you identify the many strange looking items that you’ll see on the stalls. At some points the scents were fresh and enticing, but to be polite they were "more interesting" as we got into the fish market area. The hubbub echoed around and "through us" as traders screeched for attention and then a few more stalls away the sound softened as stall holders chatted gently to each other.
If you get chance to visit the market at different times in the day I’d recommend that you do that as you will then see the variety of "sides" to this busy place. You can be sure that at some point, whether it be early morning or towards the end of the day, someone will say "please buy - you’re my lucky first customer".
Believe that and you’re probably the most gullible person in the universe!