Once the sun has set on Vietnam’s most paradisiacal island and one has had their fill of sea-venturing and sun-burning, the after-hours are the perfect time to dive into the the depths of the Phu Quoc Night Market, also known as Chợ Đêm Phú Quốc.
Located in the heart of Duong Dong town, and not far off from other popular hangout spots in the area, such as the Chuon Chuon Bistro & Sky Bar that is just mere minutes away, Phu Quoc’s Night Market is surprisingly not as overwhelmingly crowded as other Asian markets in bigger cities. As personal space is not a commonly enjoyed freedom on most of Vietnam’s busiest streets, this is a much welcomed sensation, and allows you to calmly take in all of the market’s offerings without battling it out elbow to elbow with other visitors like you’ve been unsuspectingly caught up in a particularly feisty Metallica mosh pit.
Although Chợ Đêm Phú Quốc doubles up as a flea market selling an assortment of clothes and predictably unremarkable holiday trinkets, the real appeal lies in the edible treats.
Glittering street vendors are dotted throughout the long winding road that hosts the market, illuminating the evening with their circus-like light bulbs, with each stall you come across more inviting than the last.
If you come to the market on an empty stomach you’ve done it right. You’ll find roasted peanuts flavoured with hundreds of different spices (along with an army of sellers trying to amicably force a sample down your throat), purple patterned stacks of flattened dried squid, bunches of neon-orange shrimp sold by the kilo, and multiple vendors speedily whipping up rolled ice cream with a flurry of spatulas in front of a teeming throng of hungry, but mesmerised onlookers.
Along this unique strip, the sit down restaurants are stupidly overpriced and stultifying when compared to the more affordable (not to mention more appealing) street stalls. One of the most striking sights of the market is the sheer volume of towering blue tanks all containing exotic creatures from the aquatic world, with restaurateur’s scooping them fresh up from the water in hand held nets, before making their final voyage to the waiting customers’ plates.
You could be excused for thinking that the market is simply a ploy for visiting tourists to part with their fanny pack stashed cash, however it is an event thoroughly enjoyed by locals and their families in equal amounts. This plays no small part in creating the atmosphere here in Chợ Đêm Phú Quốc, but locals and tourists alike meet their match in the deal or no deal street vendors who’re immovable objects when it comes to haggling. Given the scarcity of seafood – especially seafood of this calibre – in landlocked cities like Hanoi, the power rests entirely with the street vendors, preying on our collective hunger for all things from the deep.
To find anything from seafood to pearls, visit Phu Quoc’s Night market from 7:30pm to 10:30pm at Lý Tự Trọng, Dương Đông, Phú Quốc