Urban Vietnam is constantly on the move. Part of what makes cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City so exhilarating is the constant motion on city streets — from street food stalls to motorbikes to pedestrians, Vietnam always seems to be headed somewhere, and if you’re not careful, you’ll miss it!
And when it comes to shopping in Vietnam, perpetual movement is just part of the game, and some shop windows aren’t windows at all — but two wheels. Stacked high in precarious towers on the back of rickety bicycles can be anything from pottery, to vegetables, to clothing and more. It’s just one of our favorite quirky characteristics, and one we love to share with our visitors.
You’ll hardly have a more memorable shopping experience than buying souvenirs and snacks off of these two-wheeled shops, but just what can you find on the back of bikes? Everything! But these are a few of our very favorites.
Take a Vietnam day tour and you will notice that Vietnam’s flower markets are probably some of Southeast Asia’s most colorful and vibrant, but part of what makes Vietnam special is those flower markets’ penchants for packing up their blooms onto the back of a bicycle and cycling around the city. In Hanoi, bicycle salesman will usually stay relatively close to the city’s largest flower wholesale market near West Lake, so people on the search for bikes selling a whole range of flora should head to nearby Truc Bach to find them. Keep an eye out for Vietnam’s iconic flower, the lotus, which is a particular favorite of locals.
More often than not, people selling balloons off of bicycles are nearly impossible to spot, since they’re usually hidden under a massive swarm of multi-colored balloons in enormous, inflated bouquets. These are particularly popular with children, so you’ll often see more bicycles offering balloons near the months around Mid Autumn Festival, a popular children’s holiday toward the end of the year. That said, the balloons certainly aren’t reserved for a certain age, and plenty of young-at-heart will grab a few inflatable cartoon characters to carry around with them!
Fruit and Vegetables
Food is everywhere in Vietnam, and while most produce is found in the country’s many street markets in the early morning, plenty of that same produce is loaded onto bicycles and cycled around the city after the markets disappear. Most bicycle fruit and veggie sellers carry with them just a few options, and they’re usually according to whatever produce is in season. With a little more knowledge on when harvesting season is for Vietnam’s incredible variety of fruits and vegetables, you’ll easily be able to get your travel snacks on the go.
There are plenty of places to stock up on souvenirs in urban Vietnam, and any downtown district with tourist destinations within walking distance will surely be buzzing with souvenir sellers. But while plenty of other souvenir sellers have a choice of items that are nearly identical to every other wandering salesman, bicycle shops tend to sell items that double as things meant for locals and items for creative travelers. If you’re looking for swag that’s different than the dime-a-dozen items in street shops, jog after a passing bicycle to see what they’ve got — you might be surprised at what you find!
When it comes to bicycles, there’s nothing too big, too heavy or too alive to move on those two wheels. That extends to household pets, which are sometimes balanced on the backs of rickety bicycles and wheeled along the road. While very few mammals are ever on the backs of bicycles (thankfully), multiple tiers of live fish swimming in water suspended in a simple plastic bag is much more common. When fully stocked, a bicycle balancing some hundred fish in baggies while weaving through traffic is one of the most mesmerizing and downright bizarre sights you’ll see in Vietnam.
What are the weirdest bike-bound wares you’ve seen?
We can help you see this strange cultural phenomenon for yourself, in some of Vietnam’s most bustling cities. See how our customized and unique tours can give you a glimpse at what makes Vietnam’s biggest cities tick.