Don’t expect a receipt if you’re looking to buy anything from this market.

Most Hanoians would be flummoxed if you asked them where Hoa Binh Market is, but if you asked them about Chợ Giời, it would be a different story.

The name Chợ Giời tells a story itself as its earliest vendors used to gather in an open-air spot to sell pretty much everything they owned, hence the name “Giời”, meaning sky, God and outdoors in Vietnamese.

The market is believed to have opened in 1955 on the corner of two streets, but since then it has expanded to more than four streets and two big alleys along the busy thoroughfares of Hue and Hang Bai.

In Chợ Giời, vendors sell everything from car parts and metal springs to TV remotes. Some old, some new, some possibly stolen. The majority of the goods are mechanical items, and here you can find the tiniest screwdrivers to rare 1980’s amplifiers all under the same roof.

Following the war and the subsidy period, Chợ Giời was split down into different departments. Yen Bai 2 Street was known for its CDs and DVDs  —  before the Internet and Youtube changed all that. Nguyen Cong Tru Street draws vendors selling LEDs, bulbs and lighting devices, and there are also rows selling car parts, motorbike parts, household appliances and secondhand goods.

“[In Vietnamese], we call it ‘buôn có bạn, bán có phường’, or birds of a feather flock together,” said Dao, a 55-year-old vendor.

The market had its heyday in the 1990s

, Dao added, but after Doi Moi — Vietnam’s economic reform in 1986—  small businesses in Chợ Giời found themselves lagging behind the country’s development.

“Before there were no electrical shops and department stores, and we were the only suppliers,” Dao said, pointing at his table covered in screws, studs and bolts. “At the time, people from other provinces would come to Hanoi to buy these mechanical components from us, but now the factories can deliver them straight to their doors.”

But Chợ Giời is infamous for another reason. Anyone living in Hanoi knows this is where you can buy pretty much anything.

The market is known for selling stolen goods, notably motorbike and car accessories such as mirrors, wheels and rims.

The cost of secondhand or stolen goods is usually 30–40 percent cheaper than normal market prices. According to some vendors, while most of their goods come from China, others come from various unknown sources, both real and fake, and many customers are unable to tell the difference at first glance.

A few years back, local authorities reportedly confiscated various stolen goods, but despite regular checks, the trade goes on.

Chợ Giời remains unique nonetheless. Its cramped, bleak alleyways and enigmatic ambiance have made it one of the most talked about markets in Hanoi. “Few years ago, parents would even warn their children not to come here,” said a vendor selling bootleg music discs on Yen Bai 2 Street. “I don’t know where that came from.”

Source: Vnexpress