People visit Dong Ba Market not only because they can buy myriad goods and local specialties, but because in their hearts it is a symbol of Hue’s culture.
Dong Ba is both the name of the largest market in Hue and of a small canal connecting the market with the busy river port of Bao Vinh, Lo Street and Thanh Ha. Dong Ba is also the name of the first steel bridge across the Dong Ba River and Dong Ba Street. The market was originally located outside the citadel’s Chanh Dong Gate (also commonly called Dong Ba), where today stands a park at the end of Phan Dang Luu Street. The market was burnt down in the summer of 1885. In 1887, King Dong Khanh had it rebuilt and named it Dong Ba. In 1889, King Thanh Thai had it moved to the current location at the crossroads of the Huong (Perfume) River and the west bank of the Dong Ba Canal. Due to its convenient location, the market has always been very popular.
Dong Ba Market provided the “stage” for the traditional crafts in Hue. Today, the market still sells many traditional products of the region: Phu Cam conical hats, Hien Luong scissors, bronze articles of the Duc guild, Phuoc Tich pottery, Bao La rattan and bamboo products, Ke Mon jewelry, Nam Thuan sweets, Tuan tea, Huong Can mandarins, Luong Quan-Nguyet Bieu pomelos, and Tinh Tarn lotus; and everyday Hue dishes such as clam rice, beef noodles, shrimp cakes, pancakes, bean puddings, sour shrimps, and My Lai shredded lean meat.
As the Lunar New Year approaches, the locals buy “five-color” cakes, which are smail, square cakes made of bean and rice powder. They are placed on the ancestral altar, wrapped in five-color paper, and then they can eat. Biting into it, the cake seems to immediately melt in the mouth.
Hue City is growing fast. New markets are constantly appearing: small, squatting and mobile (a ubiquitous site of Viet Nam, a woman with a pole over her shoulder balancing two baskets, one on either side). One no longer has to go far to do the shopping. Still, Dong Ba remains the biggest and most important market in both Hue and Central Viet Nam – it is an institution.