The fair goes on at the Vietnamese-Lao border

09:55 | 12/02/2018 Travel

(VEN) - During a recent journey to Nghe An Province’s southwestern mountainous district of Ky Son, which shares a 192 kilometer long borderline with Laos, we had an opportunity to visit the weekly, Sunday fair in Xiangkhouang Province’s Nong Het District.

the fair goes on at the vietnamese lao border
Tet is nearing in the northern central province of Nghe An’s Ky Son District - Photo: Hoang Trinh

Ky Son

We could feel the tension of life in the city and the tiredness of our long journey melt away as soon as we reached Muong Xen Township – the heart of Ky Son District. The mountainous township was charming, its stilt house roofs nestled in fog and surrounding hills painted in verdant hues. We heard the sounds of running streams and saw the swirls of falling leaves, reflecting nature’s vitality in this beautiful rural region.

We got up early in the morning, quickly preparing for a trip to the Nam Can International Border Crossing with Laos, 25km from Muong Xen. The picturesque landscape accompanied us to the crossing into Nong Het District in the Lao province of Xiangkhouang.

the fair goes on at the vietnamese lao border
The Nam Can international border crossing in the northern central province of Nghe An’s Ky Son District - Photo: Hoang Trinh

Our first stop was the Nam Can border post. Different kinds of orchids were blooming at and around the frontier. Captain Commissar Ho Quang Hieu welcomed us with cups of famous Tuyet Shan tea. The captain said trade exchange through the border crossing usually increased considerably in the last two months of the lunar year to serve demand for goods for the Tet holiday.

Nong Het fair

He said the trade fair in Lao Xiangkhouang Province’s Nong Het District, one kilometer from Nam Can International Border Crossing, had been going on for years. After a hiatus, it had been restored in the past two years, Hieu said. It was previously open only on the 10th, 20th and 30th days of the month, but to satisfy the growing demand is nowadays open every Sunday, Hieu added. Laos’ Dinh Dam Mountain and Vietnam’s Pu Pom Mountain form dramatic backdrops for the weekly market venue. Goods vary, including different Vietnamese and Lao products such as medicinal herbs, brocades, fruits and vegetables, seafood, pets, essential goods, and clothing, among many other products. Vendors accept both Vietnam dong and Lao kip.

The fair attracts both Vietnamese and Lao buyers and sellers. It serves not only as a marketplace, but also as a meeting place. Many Vietnamese say they come there just to enjoy the ambience and special foods and drinks of Laos. Vi Thi May, born in Ky Son District but residing in Nong Het, said she has been selling goods at the fair for a long time, business is pretty good, and she is happy to have friendly Lao customers.

the fair goes on at the vietnamese lao border
The fair in Lao Xiangkhouang Province’s Nong Het District - Photo: Hoang Trinh

Kham On Na from Nong Het said she sells Lao steamed glutinous rice and baked chicken meat at the fair. She added that she has to get up early in the morning and travel 10km to reach the site, and she wishes the fair would open for longer periods and more frequently so she can have more time to meet and have a drink with her friends. Many other sellers share the same thinking as Na. Lo Thi Xu from Ky Son District’s Noong De Village said she sells mustard greens, and she loves the fair though she, too, has to travel a long, difficult way to reach it.

“The fair has become a symbol of Vietnamese-Lao friendship,” said Vi Hai from Muong Xen.

Vietnamese and Lao customs and border guard authorities have adopted open policies to facilitate trade at the fair. There are regular training courses for border guards to help them do a better job in human and cargo examination and verification, Captain Ho Quang Hieu said.

Hoang Trinh