Warning – some graphic images.
So – even though I was on vacation and fully committed to lying around in the resort as much as possible, and the 8.00 am start was outrageously early – when I was offered a chance to pay a visit to Han Market, the major market place in Da Nang, I think you could guess my answer. There I was, camera ready, first on the bus, but alone. Prone was the bloke’s preferred holiday orientation – he is more committed to eating food, rather than finding out where it comes from.
The Han Market is located in the heart of Da Nang and named for the river which flows just across the road from the market. Surrounded by small stalls on the footpaths all around the outside of the building, the covered market is one of the largest of more than 50 markets in the city and takes up a city block, covering an area of 28,000 square metres. Growing from fairly modest origins during the French domination, Han Market was completely refurbished in 1989 and now supplies fresh, local produce, fresh and dried fish, meat, dry goods, clothing and one or two surprises, over two levels.
My visit was short, but I was impressed by the vast range of food which was available. The fresh fish was firm, shiny and bright of eye and the selection of fresh meat included every form of offal you could think of.
There was a young girl in a corner making fresh fish cakes of varying sizes over a fierce open fire, a shy old lady nearby rolling up betel leaves and a group of women intriguingly hunched over some bowls on the floor in a corner – so, naturally, I sidled over for a peek.
These incredibly fast working and efficient ladies had large bags next to them and sharp snips in their hands. As I watched they reached into the bags, grabbed hold of large, struggling frogs and swiftly snipped their heads off before rapidly skinning them, dismembering them and tossing the legs into the bowls at their feet. Clearly there is still some local taste for the French delicacies of old, but not a sight for the sensitive. I hope all the vegans have turned away.
It wasn’t long before we were bustled out by our guide, winding our way past the stalls full of greens and fresh herbs when something else caught my eye. While there were some male traders in the market, the vast majority of the stall-holders appeared to be women and, well – we ladies need our down time. Jammed in a corner was a small, makeshift beauty parlour offering all the usual services – manicures, pedicures, head massages, hair washing and blow drying. No fancy equipment here though, and with space at a premium some interesting solutions have been arrived at. Check out the lady in blue having her hair washed!