Scouting Ben Thanh Market

The previous shot was taken in Ben Thanh Market, which serves Saigon's Old Quarter, near our fine Sen Hotel. While something of a tourist draw, it is largely populated by locals, as evidenced by the pig brains and cow stomach on offer. The large, warehoused market is constantly swarming with activity, and there isn't much you can't buy there. The butchers, greengrocers, and fishmongers (for want of better words) keep stalls off to one side of the warehouse. The stalls that line the warehouse in concentric squares are dedicated to clothing, "antiques," "art," and other consumer items. The center is filled with food stalls.

Here is a photo from the "grocery" section, taken by Susan, who loved the varied colors of the spiny lobsters on display.

Here's a photo of some of their colorful crustacean cousins:

Nice to see them iced down in Saigon's hot climate. (Later, I had a couple of these fellows grilled. Very tasty, sweet meat.)

After some shopping we sat for a late breakfast of pho, a steaming soup with noodles, basil, cilantro, and various meats on offer. Susan had chicken, I had shrimp.

We returned to the market on our final night in Vietnam, and, as on the first night, ate outside. Here are jumbo prawns being prepared at one of the stalls that appear outside Ben Thanh every evening:

And here is the "restaurant" where we enjoyed the large prawns:

The streets on both sides of Ben Thanh close to traffic (the 4-wheeled variety; scooters are ever present, of course) in the early evening until the wee hours. This one specialized in seafood. You can see the posted menu behind the host/tout, and fish tanks to his left. (Susan is sitting just behind the left of the tank). The couple to the right were from Finland, spending a couple of weeks there with their 2- or 3-year old daughter. We saw many European families with young children travelling through the region, interestingly. Americans would probably wait until their children were older.

Here's Susan enjoying a beer in the "restaurant:"

Looks like "Tiger" beer to me. The beer in general was good, certainly well-suited to the climate and food, crisp and refreshing. Those little restaurants, shacks or stalls that lacked refrigerated would simply add lare chunks of ice (purified) to you glass and serve it to you with a straw. I think there may be some truth to the urban legend that drinking beer through a straw gets you buzzed further; more research, however, is needed.

This would be our final meal in Saigon, by the way. Our flight back to the US, via Narita, Japan, left that evening at midnight.

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