Life in Vietnam

Thursday, 25/04/2024 09:16

The Rice Field Food Market of Bà Rịa

Ray Riches *

I didn’t like it but you should visit this place once! A strange statement but one that is befitting of this unique attraction just outside Bà Rịa. The newly formed Rice Field Food Market is a wonderfully unique experience that you must try once.

Just a 15-minute motorcycle ride from the centre of Bà Rịa, and only 45 minutes from Vũng Tàu, sits a picturesque vibrant rice field. Running through the middle of this vast flatland is the lifeblood of the area, an irrigation channel. And it is beside this irrigation channel that the locals of Bà Rịa have decided to create a night food market for locals and visitors to experience something total new and unique.

The space network of well maintained roads brace the irrigation channels, and this allows cars and motorbikes to easily ride through the field. This has given the opportunity for local food sellers to bring their carts out of the city and set them up along the channel on the roadway, inviting anyone who would like to experience sunset and food in the rice fields.

Ray and Loan enjoy the sunset in the rice field. — VNS Photos Ray Riches

Thousands of cars and an uncountable array of motorbikes scrambled and parked anywhere there was free space. The line of cars seemed to stretch for more than a kilometre in every direction. Along the street market, it was evident that this place is a major attraction because there were hardly any spaces to sit or even walk.

Some found their freedom by walking into the dry areas of the rice field. Some played with their children whilst a lucky few flew kites in the setting sun. And as the sun set, amazing photo opportunities presented themselves minute by minute with the changing colours as the sun slowly disappeared behind the distant mountains. It was the most special moment of the experience and one you should also enjoy.

After sunset, the market continued with street vendors selling everything from Bánh Tráng Nướng, Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm and Ốc to sweet food like fried banana and Chè Chuối. People sat on any available plastic chair to eat and talk with their friends and family, whilst others wandered with handfuls of food.

The market is open seven nights a week, for now, and you will find it especially busy at the weekends. My visit on a Saturday indicated, via the many licence plates on cars and bikes, that it was mostly local residents that ventured out to enjoy this experience. Only a few vehicles appeared to come from other provinces.

And this was most likely the reason that I appeared to be the only foreigner visiting the market on that night. It is a local experience that is frequented by local families and young people enjoying a moment to get close to nature and experience something new.

Many visitors sit on the bank to enjoy food from the street vendors on the road behind.

Whilst the views were magnificent, especially from a flycam, it was also clear that little thought had gone into this set up. More so, it appeared to be a total surprise that this location has become so popular. There appeared to be no infrastructure in place to deal with the masses attending at sunset.

With only one police car stopping traffic at the main entry to allow easier exiting, car and motorbike parking was a free-for-all. In addition, there were no toilets or other support services in place to assist the thousands of people visiting this market.

A young family enjoys food while sitting amongst the growing rice near the street market.

Speaking to one vendor I asked how long this market had been opened. They noted it started around Tết but closed down again and only recently re-opened. My thoughts turned to the wet season and I asked how they will manage the traffic in the wet season and when the rice fields flood. He smiled at me and said: “We will work that out when the rainy season arrives.”

I am not sure if the Rice Field Food Market of Bà Rịa will stay for the long term. At the moment, it is an interesting and must-try experience, but its future is far from certain as the weather and obvious challenges with the location may mean this experience is short lived.

I really enjoyed visiting this place. I could see all the failings and struggles it had but it was just the moment I got to stand in the field and take photos of people having fun that made this an enjoyable experience for me. People being together and having fun is what I see as the heart of Việt Nam.

So, take the road less travelled and try the Bà Rịa Rice Field Food Market before its too late. The location is available on Google Maps. I don’t think I will go a second time but I did enjoy visiting it once and I recommend it for anyone wanting to see the heart of Vietnamese culture in a special and unique way. — VNS

Ray lives in HCMC and works as a teacher and freelancer. Apart from teaching he is a keen runner and bicycle adventure rider. He has visited many parts of the country by bicycle and loves the smaller parts of this beautiful country. After 10 years in Việt Nam, Ray has a love and passion for the smaller things in the country and enjoys sharing his experiences with people all over the world.

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