As I write these posts of Vietnam, I often sit on our balcony at home in Newcastle. This is the smallest of the two balconies but it is one of my and our dear little noble cats’ favorite spaces. The area, no bigger than a tiny bathroom, is a place I have somehow managed to fill with pots of herbs, fruit, fruit trees (believe it or not, ) and flowers. My lovely frangipani, that quintessential scent of summer, is in full bloom and the yellow skinned fig with its sweet amber flesh is fruiting yet it is the mint and coriander, the basil and the limes which keep my thoughts to Vietnam.
Part II – The markets of Vietnam…….
We hit quite a few different markets whilst trekking through three different provinces of Vietnam. Often times we jumped a bus to take us to a location such as the Cu Chi tunnels or to a beautiful city such as Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. We drove past rubber plantations and vibrant green rice fields, through forests, small villages and muddy townships and through and past the lives of the locals. The bus chugged and heaved and weaved its way along. Sometimes up steep ranges, sometimes on deeply pot-holed dirt roads and often through the ever present throngs of speedy little step-throughs.
To market, to market……..
Other times, the markets were just on the doorstep of where we wandered.
Most days, that big heavy sky would hint of rain and when it did open up, the warm scented rain often smelled so very much like freshly washed linen.
Vietnam is notoriously humid and when caught in the crush of hundreds of market goers it can make for a very muggy and rowdy experience. At times, to avoid the crowds, we would take to the small narrow alleyways which skirt the markets. Here, the chaotic noise becomes a quiet din, the less oppressive humidity is welcomed and it is here you will often find something quite wonderfully unexpected tucked away.
The markets of Asia really are a social hub and the heart of any community. These charming, over-crowded and lively places, where some of the most robust haggling will always take place, are where the locals and tourists gather together to ferret out a bargain. Colourful and in-your-face, these places sell pretty much anything and everything from the freshest of meats and seafood, live stock to fruit, spices and herbs to clothing and silk.
Be as you always should when travelling, considerate and respectful of culture as with most markets in Asia, you will be confronted by things which will assault your every sense and as I have said before, you may not always like what you see.
Market food is always abundant and at times, it is raw. In this case…..very raw! I adore ducks, especially Indian Runners and the sweet little Pekings, so this for me was difficult.
The seller assured me these were not ‘meat’ ducks nor ‘meat’ chickens but egg layers for the buyer. At that point, she could have told me the sky was purple and that all clouds rained orange confetti not rainwater and I would have wanted to believe her.
Or perhaps not…….
P.S. I love frogs too!
For the most part, women work the market stalls and be assured though often small and delicate looking in stature, do not be fooled. These women are very capable, very tough and savvy and they mean business.
I watched on as one tiny almost bird like elderly woman, wearing her grace and beautifully crisp linen shirt with Audrey Hepburn elegance, stunned a very large and very slippery fish with a blow to the head before deftly gutting and scaling the still live and wriggling fish in seconds. Somehow, the act completely belied her delicate femininity and I can state with all confidence and honesty, that I could never look as graceful nor as composed whilst ever attending to making dinner!
And once again, that big wondrous Vietnam sky opened up and again the rain was warm and again, it smelled so very like much freshly washed linen……..xx