Ho Chi Minh City launches first 'food street' for local hawkers

20 food stalls were set up on the pavements along Nguyen Van Chiem Street, located between Diamond Plaza and the Youth Culture House. PHOTO: VIETNAMNEWS

HO CHI MINH (VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) After months of anticipation, the first official "food street" in Ho Chi Minh City opened on Monday in District 1.

At 6am, 20 food stalls were set up on the pavements along Nguyen Van Chiem Street, located between Diamond Plaza and the Youth Culture House.

Forty street vendors who once occupied sidewalks in different areas in District 1, now have a dedicated, safe place to sell food.

The vendors have been divided into two groups of 20 each, with the first group working the 6-9am shift and the second the 11am-2pm shift.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Tran The Thuan, chairman of District 1's People's Committee, said 40 street vendors were chosen from low-income families in the district.

The vendors, who received training on food safety, fire prevention and sorting of garbage, were provided uniforms and name tags, according to Thuan.

Each street vendor is allowed to sell either food or drinks to customers, mainly for takeaway.

All of the food is prepared and cooked at home and is then brought to the street to be warmed up and sold.

Vo Thi Thanh, who had previously sold banh mi on Ton Duc Thang Street, said she could not sleep for days because she was so thrilled that she had been given a spot on the food street. "I'm so happy that I have a stable place to sell food," she said.

Nguyen Thi Minh Khanh, who owns a bun mang vit (noodle duck soup with dried bamboo shoots) food stall, said that most food vendors did not want to move from street to street.

Besides being a convenient spot for vendors, the food street is now a new destination for locals and tourists.

Tourist Martina Villa of Italy noticed a crowd on the street and, out of curiosity, decided to have a bite of Vietnamese food. "I think it's really nice and makes it easier for people to choose food they like," she said.

However, as each shift only lasts three hours, street vendors fear they will not be able to sell as much as they had at their previous locations."Even before, when I used to sell from 6 am to 1pm, business was good on some days and not very good on other days," Khanh said.

Vendor Son Thi Ngoc Huong said she used to sell com tam in front of her house on Hai Ba Trung Street, but had to conduct business on the pavement as she lived on a very narrow alley.

Under the "pavement reclamation" campaign, Huong does not have to worry about urban watchdog officers, but she said she was concerned about her income.

Doan Ngoc Hai, deputy chairman of the district's People's Committee, said: "It would be great if all of these vendors could have sold food over lunch time, as three hours is not that much." Thuan, the committee's chairman, said the food street was a pilot programme and the district authority would solicit feedback from the community and street vendors and make changes at a later date.

During the trial period, street vendors will not have to pay taxes or rent. At the end of each shift, they must clean their stalls and store them in the designated area so the area remains open to pedestrians.

The second food street in District 1 is expected to open in Bach Tung Diep Park next month.

The city is also looking forward to opening similar spaces in other districts to help street vendors have safe, appealing places to do business.

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