(As always, be sure to click on each photo – you will see a much larger version of the photo if you do.)
Soon, the place is noisy, packed and exciting. Noisy because the women are loud as they argue over prices, buyers denigrate the products and everyone exchanges the news of the day. The “seafood section” of the market offers fin fish, squid, shrimp – you name it and its there. Not only can you find what you want, but it doesn’t get any fresher than “still wigglin’ in the basket.” Very few Vietnamese, except the wealthy folks in the cities, own refrigerators. That necessitates frequent trips to the market (sometimes twice day) but it also means the food is super fresh.
Maybe you have a hankering for some pork. No problem. This pig was alive only a few hours ago, but some deft work with a big knife quickly reduces him to edible pieces. When I returned to this vendor’s stall about an hour later, she was almost sold out.
The Vietnamese diet doesn’t have a lot of meat in it. It’s a very healthy diet of fresh vegetables – lots of soups – with protein coming from seafood, chicken, pork, and a little beef.
Money and goods trade hands. The Vietnamese currency is the dong. (say dom). The exchange rate is over 19,000 dong to the US dollar – it takes awhile to get used to the idea that 50,000 dong is about $2.50. Prices in this market place are much lower than in the cities. The ladies are exchanging a blue colored bill - probably a 20,000 dong note – less than a dollar. Change was given by the seller.
The buyer in the above photo has a bowl of soup in her hand. Ever munch on a candy bar while shopping in America? We humans have busy lives but there are always people who will offer services to help with those busy lives. There are a number of places in the market to buy prepared food, including this soup stall. You can get a quick order if you wish, and either eat it at the stall or carry-out. She will throw in some fresh greens too.
And if Grandma forgot something for the soup stall, it’s easy to send the grandson scampering back across the little creek next to the market to retrieve it from her house.
There are a lot of kids around the market. They’re not playing hooky from school – they will go in the afternoon. Most countryside families are too poor to pay for a full day’s schooling, so the go to school half a day.one-legged elderly gentleman who collects the rental money from the vendors, but most of the men are hangers-on. Women run the place.
As mid-morning approaches, the crowd thins out; the vendors pack away their scales, baskets and other paraphernalia, and the area becomes quiet again.
The ladies walk home with their purchases and the world awaits tomorrow’s dawn and another day for the market under the bridge.