Human tide at the Richmond Night Market

Each year, with the coming of summer, a strange socio-geographical phenomenon occurs in Richmond: the human tide of the Night Market. For nearly five months, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a flow of up to 18,000 visitors a night invades the 400,000 sq. ft area where 400 kiosks await them, offering everything from delicious Asian foods to cheap electronics, bags and gadgets.

The tide rises fast, and a half hour after opening, the market is already so full it’s difficult to move around. People are patient; they roam around, shopping, eating and having fun. A few kids cry, overwhelmed by the crowd’s density, but they cannot run; parents keep a close leash on them as if they lost their kid in there, they might as well buy a new one. Walking around with food becomes tricky because the human tide is always in motion and threatens to squeeze you so close to your plate it would become imprinted on your shirt.

Later, when the evening is over and the tide recedes, the place is left empty and suddenly quiet. A few cleaners spring into action like as many crabs on a deserted beach, until finally the Night Market goes to sleep.

My trip along the human tide and into the market, this year, was marked by a crude disappointment: it seems that the millions of people who visited the event last year must not have enjoyed the Mango Rolls as much as I had because their stand did not reappear. But I had my camera with me, of course, and holding it at arm’s length above my head, I pretended to be lifting it out of the reach of giant waves and snapped away at the crowd.