The streets around the Dong Xuan market hum with activity, there is the slightly more civilized approach via the front of the building. Or the hectic, eclectic and electric rabbit warren of streets that leads to the back entrance, this way doesn’t look like it’s been cleaned for a decade. It’s not too bad, a bit pongy, not a bad smell, really, kinda like a well used boot that has been left in a bag for a week.
There is a lot of food stalls along the entrance to the back, street food sellers with small tables and even smaller plastic chairs selling every type of Vietnamese food you could conceive of eating. I’m game for most things, but thought twice about committing to the idea of eating at many of these places.
There are locals a plenty though, they had me wondering about how good it could be… The fried noodles, soups, poached chickens and ducks, rice porridge, che (sweet snacks) and banh mi all look appealing enough, if I could ignore the grime.
These streets lead into a large fresh food market, the chickens, street side butchers with beef and pork, the live fish, offal, fresh noodles and tofu, all the local ingredients I need to inspire me. Just not at the minute, I’m more concerned about where my flip flop is likely to land, and what it may land into.
Traders display their wares, some with smiles, some with glares, some with looks that read your soul. The wares look tasty in part, some look intriguing and some very intriguing. The dry fish are in particular abundance, coming in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and smells, I know what some are for, but others perplex me completely.
These streets are hectic, pedestrians, cycles, cars, trucks unloading around the oblivious tourists, some more gormless than myself, narrowly avoiding the fully laden market porters. I navigate around the hawkers, a bamboo yoke across one shoulder, a varying array of goods available from the gently swinging baskets below, snacks, fruit or veg. Some hawkers are more savvy about tourists than others, photo for money…
Stepping into the back of this large 3 storey market building the contrast is striking, the quiet narrow lanes of goods are not such a sensory assault as outside, but a visual spectacle. I imagine that every conceivable dry food item ever eaten in the city is available here, it’s a maze of noodles, rice, dried fish, mushrooms, herbs, spices, kitchen hardware and eggs. There’s pickles, vinegars, sauces, there is stuff hanging I have no concept of at all. I am afraid I will dislodge much of it with my wide 6 foot frame as I gawk in every direction, the precarious looking sacks filled to the brim, the vibrant chilies and fragrant herbs a burst of colour and aroma.
Elsewhere in the market, particularly through the front entrance there are consumer goods, belts, bags, shoes, toys that sort of thing. On the 2nd and 3rd floors there are predominantly clothing and fabrics to be found. I leave my partner to look through the fabrics while I have a proper look on the ground floor. Searching through the small fabric pitches for something fantastic, she can choose to try and discuss anything with the stallholder if she can. The shareholder can usually be found perched amongst their wares, or asleep on top of them, eating or just chatting with friends totally ignoring the potential custom.