People in Ho Chi Minh City who frequent Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street may be familiar with the sight of candy sellers dressed in animal costumes.
At around 8:00 pm on the granite-paved street in District 1 stretching from the city hall to the iconic Saigon River, more than a dozen human-sized ‘animals’ spaced across its length of 670 meters bring a sense of nostalgia to visitors.
Selling candies by stirring up the atmosphere with witty acts and funny impressions to entertain families with little children is how these ‘stuffed animals’ make money.
Noticing a group of children playing on the street, a man dressed in a full Milo Monkey costume showed up and waved at Phuong Anh, 5, allowing her to pet him on the face before enjoying a game of peek-a-boo with the girl.
Seeing their daughter enjoying the monkey’s presence, Anh’s parents asked for a couple of photos of her and her new friend, gladly paying for a lollipop offered by the candy-selling man.
Many other parents, amused by the scene, also encouraged their kids to the play with the funny monkey and happily bought his candies in return.
Inside the heavy and stuffy costume was Ngo Hai Tung, 24, a part-time candy seller working for a company nearby.
Tung said he only got to keep a fourth of the money from selling the candies, at VND20,000 (US$0.90) each, with the rest being the company’s share.
For a night of working from 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm, he earns around VND100,000 ($4.50).
“Those who can afford their own animal costume make more profit, as they keep all the money for themselves,” Tung explained, adding that a full costume like his could cost between VND3 million ($135) and VND6 million ($270).
“This is just what I do in the evening, as I work part-time at a coffee shop in the morning,” the unemployed college graduate said.
Apart from Milo Mokey, other popular animals and fictional characters such as Mickey Mouse, Pikachu, and Santa Claus could also be seen on the street.
Amateur magician Nguyen Hai Duy, 28, was wearing a Santa Claus costume, posing for photos every time he noticed a camera, and entertaining families who would buy his candies with no less energy than the younger sellers.
Pointing at the other end of the street, Duy said his wife also works as a costumed candy seller for a nearby company.
“We have been married for two years but are still saving up for our future baby,” Duy said.
Hong, a passing pedestrian, said all candy sellers on the street were friendly and hilarious, so she had no problem with paying for their candies.
Sharing the same thought, many youths interviewed by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said they had never been bothered by the costumed candy sellers, and found them very entertaining.
Competitiveness is almost non-existent among candy sellers on Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street, as they are often seen patting on the other’s shoulder and engaging in conversations when passing by each other.
“I can’t imagine how sad the kids would be if one day they are no longer here,” Hong said.