An hour after midnight, hundreds of traders and merchants flock to the Ben Do fish market in the coastal province of Quang Ninh.
The market is located in Cam Thuy Ward, Cam Pha Town at the rear end of Bai Tu Long Bay. It is one of the largest seafood markets in northern Vietnam’s Quang Ninh where both wholesale and retail trading happens as hundreds of boats go in and out, carrying fresh seafood into the shore.
The market starts closing at around 8 a.m, when the rest of the world stirs to life.
For the first three hours, 1 to 4 a.m, traders and merchants come to buy seafood from fishermen to sell at other markets in the province, and to establishments like eateries and restaurants.
The fishermen venture out to sea every day and return between midnight and dawn with their catch of shrimp, crab, squid and fish of different kinds.
These large living squids cost VND300,000 to VND350,000 ($13-15) a kilo.
Fried cakes made with squid paste is sold for VND350,000 to VND400,000 per kg, depending on the type of squid used.
The market peaks between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m, when many people get there to buy seafood.
Since a large number of boats dock there, many fishermen use small boats to carry seafood from large boats to the shore.
“My house is near here, so whenever I feel like eating seafood, I get up early and come to this market. The sooner we get here the better, because you can pick fresh, big-sized fish and other types of seafood at affordable prices,” said Mai, a resident of Cam Thuy Ward.
Dawn is also the time for the children living on boats with their parents to go to school on the mainland.
At the Ben Do fish market, there are about 10 children living with their parents on boats and rafts.
A fisherman weighs a batch of ot fish before selling it to a trader on the boat.
The ot fish costs VND70,000 to VND100,000 a kg. They are declicious, suitable for soups and a favorite of the coal miners who live and work here.
“For each trip I make, carrying customers from the shore to the boats that are more than 100 meters away, I charge around VND30,000–50,000. I make VND200,000 to VND300,000 per day,” said a boat owner who has been plying his ferrying trade for 10 years.
The unfortunate side-effect of large numbers of people gathering in one place to trade is pollution. Trash floats everywhere in the market.
After selling their catch at the Ben Do market, hundreds of boats anchor there to rest before setting sail in the afternoon for another night at work.