When visiting floating markets on Mekong rivers of Vietnam, tourists will have a chance to see bamboo sticks on boats, along with a variety of local products hung on it. This striking feature is a way to advertise products. In front of boats, typically there is a bamboo stick which is about 3m high (~10 ft). At the top of the sticks, the locals hang farm products for sales such as vegetables and fruits.
Living your life on the floating markets
The big boats typically are a wholesale seller and the small boats are retail buyers. Buyers will row their boats next to seller to buy whatever they need. You will see boats fully loaded with pineapple, mangoes, mangosteen, durian, bananas, longan, watermelon, jackfruits, etc. You also can see yams, taro, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, sugar cane and even flowers. It is colorful and amazing! Generally, no bargain is allowed here. There are products that are sold but not hung on the sticks. They are drinkable products such as coffee, tea, and coconut juice.
Sellers of these products prefer to generate sounds with horns or loudspeakers to hang things on the stick because they have too many types of drinks to hang. Unlike seller selling vegetables and fruits, these sellers proactively approach other boats to sell their drinks. Interestingly enough, there is thing hung but another product sold. Guess what? The purpose of the bamboo stick with coconut leaf is to sell the boat, not coconut leaf. This is because in Vietnam the coconut leaf represents a roof of a house.
For those living on the floating market, boats are their houses. Finally, sometimes you will see clothes are hung on bamboo sticks but it is not for sale. The reason for this is that the space in the boat is very small, while people living in the boat have most of the activities similar to those living on land. They don’t have room to dry their clothes so clothes are hung on bamboo sticks for air dry.
The bamboo stick allows differentiation between seller and buyer become easier. This is especially true on the river where noises from waves and boat motors prevent human voices from being heard. Therefore, using bamboo stick becomes useful on floating markets. Nowadays, although floating gas stations and floating groceries can afford modern ways to advertise products with signboards or advertisement display screen, the image of the bamboo sticks has deeply become a cultural feature of residents living on rivers.