Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh city as its official name, is my hometown, where I was born and grown up until 15. It is so dear and familiar to me that no matter how long I have been gone, every time I come back, it still feels like returning home. If people ask me about popular tourist attractions in Saigon, I probably would do a briefing about the Reunification Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Cu Chi Tunnels or the War Remnants Museum that I know very little about. But if anyone asks me where to eat, I would be delighted to show them our diverse and exotic food culture, one of the things that our Saigonese are so proud of.
Really, street vendors, food stalls in market, and restaurants ranging from small to big can be found in every corner of the city. Just try step out of your house or hotel and take a conscious sniff at the air, you probably can sniff out the distinctive aroma of Pho (noodle soup), the heavenly scent of well-marbled grilled pork, or maybe the rich bitter sweet aroma of Vietnamese black coffee.
In this post, I would like to present my little journey in Saigon with an introduction about Saigon markets, not Ben Thanh market which is pushing its way towards tourism purpose, but the local markets around the city.
My first stop is Cau Muoi Market as it is the closest one to my house. Located very close to Sai Gon river, at 8am in the morning, the market was already crowded with vendors and buyers. If you are not used to it, you probably will find the noise a whee bit intense and frantic, with vendors shouting to invite buyers to come over, buyers bargaining to make deals, or just the lively chitchatting and laughter between the ladies, which is the gender that makes up the majority of the market populate. Since it is a relatively small market, there is not really a pattern of categories but rather a labyrinth of stalls of fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, dried goods, sauces, rice, noodles, clothes, fabrics, incense, etc. Under the sunlight, everything is bustling with color, so simple, yet so beautiful. Layering amongst the produce are the food stalls selling delicious street foods from breakfast to snacks or desserts.
In a small corner hidden behind the busy market is a small temple where the locals come and pray to the ancestors and the Buddhist gods. That’s why inside the market, there is also a section where they sell incense and those “temple-specialities” such as candles, paper money and flowers.
Mindfully observing the market, looking at the non-stopped buying and selling activities going on, listening to the chopping of meat on the wooden boards, and smelling the fresh herbs and spice from a nearby stall give me awe. It’s almost like I am absorbed into the market, soaking in its liveliness and vibrant energy.
I could not stay long at the market as we need to head back home to prepare for lunch but it is enough to delight my day. Stay tune, I will be back to guide you into the heart of Saigon.
The banner image is from: https://pablomajones.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/ho-chi-minh-city-saigon-24-june-2007/
Other photos taken by San Luong – the “tour-guide” of this trip