Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

The thieves’ market


The thieves’ market in Hanoi is nowhere near as sinister or unwelcoming as the name suggests. It’s a network of narrow lanes and alleys in Hai Ba Trung district, packed with open-fronted shops and ramshackle market stalls, offering machine parts, car parts, bike parts, wires, cables, chains, locks, springs, pipes, lights, screws, rivets and countless other mysterious (to me, at least) pieces of metal and plastic. It has a reputation for being the place where stolen vehicle parts and electronics turn up – hence the name – but I didn’t experience any aggression or suspicion as I wandered around with my camera, just a bunch of busy people going about their day-to-day business of buying and selling stuff made of metal. As is so often the case in markets in south-east Asia, very similar stalls are tightly clustered together – a row of electricity meter merchants here, a stretch of hub cap vendors there – apparently unconcerned by the close proximity of direct competition. Some of the shops are little more than booths, just a few feet wide, where shopkeepers sit in tiny, cramped, cluttered spaces, surrounded by their wares. Take a wrong turn (or a right turn, or maybe a left) and you end up in the nearby fish and poultry market. If you need new sprockets for your motorbike and a freshly slaughtered chicken for your dinner, this is the neighbourhood to come to.

I hadn’t originally intended to present these pictures in black and white, but I like the contrast between the dark, dirty shadows of the shops and the soft afternoon sunlight filtering through from outside, and I think the black and white treatment brings this out better than colour would.

















3 Responses to “The thieves’ market”

  1. Claire St. Hilaire

    Thank you for sharing this perspective of the thieves market! I love how well you capture people in your photos. I think the black and white really brings out the characters in your images.

  2. Rantasalot

    Upeita ja eksoottisia kuviä täällä kaukana pohjoisessa asuville. Great and exotic fhotos to us living far away in the north.


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