Portrait of 'Hell's Market'
  • By Ngoc Tu | | June 30, 2012 10:52 AM

Each night hundreds of buyers, sellers and porters assemble at a market in Phu Ly City, in the northern province of Ha Nam, to do undesirable work for small wages.


Agricultural goods  

The market, colloquially named “Am Phu”, or "Hell's Market", which opens around midnight and closes at 5am, is one of the large wholesale markets providing and transporting agricultural goods from farmers to the retail sector.

While most of the population is asleep, traders are just beginning their days trying to sell their goods at the market. They come from almost all neighbouring districts and other localities such as Hanoi, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh and Thai Binh.

Mrs Thu, a long-tme trader at the market, said, "This is the wholesale market so the early bird gets the worm here. We have to get here early because, during the daytime, we are working in the fields".

Since traders and buyers usually know each other, deals are often done quickly and without bargains. Around 1:30am is the time when "Am Phu" Market is the most active.

Tran Van Khang, who has been a trader at the market forr nearly five years, said that he is there daily, except for the Tet holiday or when the weather forbids it.

Despite its reputation, the market also attracts porters who are desperate to earn money, transporting goods for as little as VND70-100,000 (USD3.33-4.76) per day. However, even that small amount is not guaranteed. Customers may or may not need their services, and many wait around in vain for work.

“Am Phu” requires the cooperation of a diverse set of people, all trying to earn a living; a place where one can see people from the age of 10 to 70 years doing business.



The market at peak time


A female porter


Display of goods on the railway



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