Three bunches of ripe bananas, dozens of shiny green guavas, about half of kilo of freshwater shrimp, around one kilo of freshwater crab, and ‘morning glory’ vegetables—have all sold out several minutes after sellers showcased them at an open-air market.

Of those goods, fruits and vegetables were picked from sellers’ gardens, and the other items, including freshwater crab and shrimp, were netted from surrounding ponds and rice fields near and far. All are fresh.

Also, they are trading hands at reasonable prices as sellers and buyers all live nearby or right next to the market, which, as such markets often do, takes place in the centre of a village, though some of the customers venture to market from neighbouring localities a bit further off.

The market hours of activity are not long—perhaps between 5 and 9 in the morning. Buyers and sellers, aside from trading, keep each other up-to-date with the latest news, gossip and even rumours they happened to bring with them from their residential quarters or somewhere else.

Morning talks are sometimes heard being loudly exchanged from one food stall to the next, while serving up morning snacks like “banh duc” (plain rice flan), “bun oc” and “bun cua” (noodles with snail or with crab meat), “banh cuon” (steamed rolled rice pancakes), or “pho” (noodles with beef or chicken).

Every year, the market becomes the most crowded during the lead up to the traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, welcoming new visitors who have travelled from afar—from where they are studying or working--to reunite with their families on this most special of all Vietnamese holidays.

As the years have passed, village market has grown, offering a more abundant variety of commodities, visibly reflecting how the lives of the villagers have changed.

The market described above could be almost any traditional village market anywhere in Vietnam , kept alive in the mind of so many Vietnamese, in a country where 70 percent of the population live in rural areas. Such markets have become an inseparable--and indispensable--part of the nation’s rural culture.

Rural markets account for 76 percent of all markets everywhere in Vietnam . However, in the absence of a development strategy for these markets, most of them are organized spontaneously, causing difficulties for market regulators.

To deal with the situation, a senior official from the Institute for Rural Development Strategies and Policies has voiced the need for relevant agencies to take the local character of each market into account whenever they intend to open a new market./.