Unsurprisingly for a town so famous for its food, Hoi An has a good selection of marketplaces. Each has a distinct flavour, Tiger Market is no different with the added seasoning of a little bit of local folklore thrown in.
Ok, firstly what’s with the name? Do I have to call the WWF?
Nah, hold the phone. In days gone by the area was deep jungle. When farmers living close by heard the roar of a tiger they began to fear for their livestock but much to their relief, the tiger never struck; in fact it seemed to scare away other predators instead. Thankful for their new protector, the farmers built a temple – one that still stands today close to the market and gives it its name.
So absolutely no tigers for sale then?
No tigers for sale, or any other big cats for that matter. Just super fresh produce from the land and sea around Hoi An. Full disclosure – you might see a shark or two in the fish section, but that’s another tale…or should that be tail?!
Aw that is a lovely origin story. So where is this Tiger Market?
Close. Really close. A five-minute cycle north of the Old Town. Find Le Loi and just carry on heading north until the road makes a noticeable swing left. Swing with it and there you are. With a multitude of smiling flower sellers lining the pavement near the entrance, it’s hard to miss. The Tiger Temple, also known as Mieu Ong Cop, can be found close by at the corner of Ton Duc Than and Phan Dinh Phung. Clue, it has a picture of a tiger on the front.
Great so it is close but do I have to get up crazy early?
Not so much – unlike the early birds at the Central Market or Ba Le, the stall holders at Tiger Market seem to like a bit of a lie-in. It doesn’t really get hopping until after 8am and even then, some sellers are just getting set up. Lazybones.
So far so good but how is it different to Hoi An’s other markets?
Well, just like you and I are different, markets too can have different personalities. Tiger Market is much less ‘in-your-face’ and bombastic than the Central Market. And whilst the stall holders are definitely approachable, they seem a little more shy and less used to interacting with foreigners than those at Ba Le market. Out of the three, Tiger Market is definitely a local market for local people and on the whole the stall holders seem content to let you wander and browse unmolested.
Even the layout of the market seems to favour a more leisurely approach to shopping. The stalls are quite spread out, with more room to manoeuvre, and the ceilings of the main block are high, really high. Perfect for those lumbering foreign giants amongst us who haven’t quite mastered the 90 degree walking bend required to squeeze into some of Vietnam’s Lilliputian marketplaces.
So it’s relaxed and good for tall folk – that’s nice! But I’m going to need a little more persuading…
Ok, how about this… Despite being the least visited by tourists and expats, conversely one of Tiger Market’s biggest draws is its ability to satisfy a number of Western cravings.
I’m intrigued. Go on.
Well not strictly in the market, but Hoi An’s best value convenience store/mini supermarket is located just on the eastern fringe of the market proper, across the road from the main entrance. Look out for the red and green sign of Hang Nga and head inside to find a treasure trove of familiar goods. If you are jonesing for peanut butter, Nutella, real Heinz tomato sauce, a good selection of cheese (yes, real cheese!), this place will hook you up. And better still, when the smiling staff ring up your bill you won’t feel as if you’ve been hoisted up by your ankles and every last Dong in your pocket shaken out.
Cheese. Real Cheese. Stop the lights! I don’t believe it. Can this place get any better?!
Actually, yes. Tiger Market has one last little treat up its sleeve to separate it from the competition. Second-hand clothes. If you’re in town for a little while and feel the need to spruce up your wardrobe without breaking the bank, Tiger Market literally has bags of second-hand clothes, and all for next to nothing. And we’re talking normal clothes here, not the pastel-coloured, touristy yoga-chic on offer in the Old Town boutiques. Hats, jeans, t-shirts, jumpers, trainers, the lot.
The downside is you may have to get your jumble rumble on and patiently sift through a fair number of bags to find a gem, especially one in your size. But of course, that’s half the fun. Added bonus: there’s enough denim available that you could easily get some friends together and reshoot some early Boyzone videos.
Ok, you’ve convinced me. Give me the basic layout.
The layout is super simple. Fish at the front, meat at the back. And then fruit and veg all the way around every side. Plus, to the south of the meat section, tucked behind some general produce stalls, are some very friendly tailors.
Park your bike outside the Hang Nga convenience store, otherwise you may find it picked up lock and all and moved half a mile away by industrious women wanting the precious real estate to set up their baskets and sell their produce.