There are two forms of “bẹo” poles: one is poles put lengthwise, typically observed in floating markets of Ca Mau. The second one involves merchants planting bamboo poles at their hood, and then hanging some of their merchandises on offer. For instance, orange sellers stake several oranges, which also applies to mangoes, or bunches of bananas. Given its unique marketing gimmick, market goers from afar can immediately detect the merchandises. These merchandises poles are typically seen across floating markets of the Mekong Delta, including Cai Be (Tien Giang), Tra On (Vinh Long), Cai Rang (Can Tho), Phung Hiep (Hau Giang), Nga Nam (Soc Trang), etc. What these markets share in common is that tourism centric ones such as Cai Be (Tien Giang), Cai Rang and Phong Dien (Can Tho) or Phung Hiep (Hau Giang)… essentially sell fruit. Meanwhile, those in Ca Mau are specialized in bulbs and vegetables for daily meals. Bamboo poles are sometimes staked with fresh bushmeat and games such as crabs, hamsters, snakes or turtles…
However, 3 exceptions still stand out, that even veteran market goers barely know. One is that some poles are not meant for sale, which involves clothing. As inhabitants also dwell aboard their boats, hence their clothing is also hung on bamboo poles. Secondly, merchandise boats without bamboo poles are essentially those of food vendors, drink stands and boats specialized in bonsai flowers. These merchandises can hardly be staked on poles, so their boats are spared bamboo poles. Last but not least, sometimes poles can beguile, as only a single coconut leaf is hung on the pole. It’s totally not the leaf or coconut related produces are on sale, but the unwritten rule here is the boat itself, which is on sale on the floating market and signified with a coconut leaf.
Floating markets are necessarily the quintessence of the Mekong Delta, and always captivating to domestic and foreign tourists alike, owing to their size, landscape, merchandises, trading patterns and in particular their amusing merchandise poles.
(Source: Vietnam Today 10.2021)