Saigon Flea market brings home the past

On Christmas Eve, I have a little nostalgia, even a certain excitement, having many thoughts in mind for my ancestors, Christmas masses, family meals. I don’t know why this article struck me, this flea market is a collection of souvenirs and a place where traders are friendly and love to talk about their past. Well here it is … this market is a café and is located in Saigon … good reading and happy New Year’s Eve … #MustSeeInVietnam Editor

Since 2013, a Saigon flea market cafe has been more than just a market for used and vintage goods. 

Flea market brings home the past

Situated in a cafe on No Trang Long Street in Binh Thanh District, the market opens at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and continues until around 2 p.m.

Here, the antique-laden stalls are also the backdrop against which merchants and shoppers reminisce about the past.

It costs VND40,000 ($1.69) to enter, but that money can be exchanged for a snack or drink.

Flea market brings home the past

Saigon residents who appreciate vintage decor and furnishings frequent this place on a weekly basis. Some come to buy and sell, but many more come to browse while enjoying a cup of coffee.

Flea market brings home the past

Nguyen Thi Nga, a 61-year-old from District 3, is a regular at the market. She’s been coming here on the weekends after she finishes her house chores for nearly 10 years.

“The antique market cafe is bustling but not too overcrowded,” she says. “When I come here, I feel like I am walking down memory lanes filled with resonant mementos that bring back fond memories.” Some of Nga’s prized finds at the market include an heirloom copper incense burner, vintage lamp stands, and an antique pepper grinder.

Flea market brings home the past

Nguyen Thanh Danh, 54, who runs a stall at the market selling vintage bicycle parts, says the market is not only a great place to show off a collection, it’s also the perfect setting in which to meet others who share an interest in antiques.

“I like the ambiance here because I get to sell things I like and listen to music, which makes me feel young again,” he says.

Flea market brings home the past

Even though he’s 80 years old, Uncle Ba (blue shirt) comes here every weekend to browse the antiques.

“I never plan to buy anything when I come here; I just like to look around and only buy things I find unique and interesting,” he says. “It’s nice to see that there’s a weekly gathering spot like this in the middle of Saigon.”

Flea market brings home the past

Thanh An and her friend had never been to the antique market cafe before, and they were impressed by the sheer number of stalls selling vintage goods.

“I found an old bronze clothing iron shaped like a chicken and it really moved me,” says the 28-year-old. “It reminds me of one my family had decades ago, but which is now only a fond memory. I thought I would never see one again, so seeing it here today was a complete surprise.”

Flea market brings home the past

The market also attracts curious foreign tourists who often ask questions about Vietnamese history and culture as they browse with interest.

Flea market brings home the past

French citizen Jon Allsop has been living in Vietnam for the past seven years with his Vietnamese wife. They own a shop where they sell antiques they brought with them from France.

Flea market brings home the past

Vintage Zippo lighters are maybe the most popular items at the cafe. Without official figures, most people at the flea market say Zippos are far and away the gathering’s best-selling items.

Flea market brings home the past

Old banknotes are also highly sought after by many, especially young people who’ve begun their own small collections and/or simply like to keep them as souvenirs. Like Zippos, they also make good gifts.

Flea market brings home the past

Thanh, who has operated a booth selling vintage coins and Zippo lighters for nine years, says that vendors can set up shop here for free as long as they arrive early and pick a good spot.

Antiques here mainly come from the families of late collectors, overseas Vietnamese or professional traders, he says.

“Products must be clearly labeled with prices and notes about their origins,” he says. “If a vendor ‘makes a mistake on purpose,’ they won’t be allowed to come back here and sell in the future.”

By Minh Tam for E.VnExpress.net


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