It is no longer uncommon for residents in Ho Chi Minh City to shop for food and groceries at midnight thanks to the mushrooming of convenience stores throughout the southern metropolis.
During this time of the day, a lot of people still arrive at these types of stores to either buy just a cup of instant noodles or a basket full of snacks and necessities.
During a late night in October, Nguyen Huu Nghia, a local citizen, took his wife, Ngoc Linh, and their three-year-old daughter to a convenience shop on Bui Dinh Tuy Street in Binh Thanh District.
After parking their motorbike, the family entered the venue and began their midnight shopping experience.
Linh grabbed a plastic basket and started scouting the aisles and filling it with all types of food and snacks, while the little girl could not hide her excitement when she got to select her favorite brands of milk.
“We often go shopping like this on weekends. We are really busy during the day so this is the only time we are free,” Nghia said.
At around 1:00 am the same day, a group of young staff of a local beer parlor headed for a store on Le Quang Dinh Street, also in Binh Thanh District, for some cups of instant noodles.
It has become a regular activity after their night shifts end. The young servers would fill their stomach with the instant food before going back to their homes.
“Our shift can sometimes last until 2:00 am, leaving us starving and exhausted. We cannot go to bed with an empty belly so the hot cup of noodles is always the best solution,” said Tran Kim Loan, one of the servers.
Loan added she is a sophomore at a local university, who works part-time at night and attend classes during the day.
At another convenience store in District 1, Nguyen Phuong Vy, 22, was shopping for some food and drinks with her female colleague.
Vy said her shift runs from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am every day, thus she usually goes shopping at these hours.
“You can never find a store that opens after 9:00 pm in my hometown in the Mekong Delta,” she remarked.
|Customers shop for products at a convenience store in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre|
For motorbike taxi drivers and street sweepers, these convenience stores may be the safest and most comfortable place to take a short nap during the night.
Nguyen Hoang Van, a 56-year-old ‘xe om’ driver, said he often waits for passengers at the Mien Dong (Eastern) Bus Station in Binh Thanh District until late hours.
As Van’s house is in Thu Duc District, quite a distance away, he often chooses to spend the night at a convenience store near the bus station.
“I usually buy a VND5,000 [US$0.22) bottle of water and take a nap at the venue. Sometimes the clerks allow me to stay without having to buy anything,” he elaborated.
At some other stores, the employees even let their customers use the restrooms or take a quick shower although the facilities are usually reserved for staff only.
These customers are often college students and night laborers who need help after a long day, a clerk said.
“We just want to help them as much as we can,” she added.
In one case, staff members of a shop in District 1 even allow a homeless elderly woman to live there.
“She eats, drinks, takes a shower, washes her clothes during the day and sleeps on a mat at night. We were all touched by her harsh living condition so we decided to let her stay for a few months,” an employee stated.