More old buildings gone

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There have been several newspaper and internet articles about old buildings being torn down in Saigon to make room for higher and better-yelding towers. There is no systematic preservation or conservation body in the city, so money talks and plenty of beautiful and culturally valuable buildings have been taken down and replaced by glass and steel, and many many floors.
On Friday, I read an article that had been published on Thursday about buildings on Le Loi street being soon torn down. I told Atte I want to go and take a couple of photos before the buildings are knocked down. We got there on Saturday afternoon, and already one of the buildings was in pieces.

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Saigon is way too often looking like this: old buildings in rubble and new ones rising higher and higher.

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Most tearing down happens manually, like here the men on top of what is left of the building.

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I luckily took this photo shortly after we arrived in 2014, so I have a nice souvenir of the cute buildings.

I guess in every country and most cities, at times some beautiful buildings have been torn down to make room for something more modern or more profitable. These buildings were not the most beautiful, but still an essential part of Saigon. It is sad to see them being destroyed at such a fast pace.

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Saigon Tax Trade Center (former Grands Magasins Charnier, a shopping mall) was open for two days after we landed in Saigon. The photo is taken before the demolition which has started in 2016. Some historically precious parts will (or should) be spared and reinstalled when the new 40-storey hotel opens in 2020.

 

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This building, or actually the whole block on Dong Khoi, belongs to the Army, and is said to be heading under wrecking ball.

There are plenty of buildings that have been torn down. Also the historic Ba Son shipyard was torn down to make room for 11 highrises. Many of the old buildings don’t have value, so they, or rather the land, has been sold to property developers.
But here are two examples that are still up and to my knowledge not on the list of buildings to be knocked down.

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Some old buildings have modern neighbouts.

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The Cafe Apartment, a building that houses several cafés and tea houses on Nguyen Hue.

In Da Hood 2

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This is another collection of small (or bigger) things I have noted while in District 1, closer to downtown and some on the way there.

There was a new Korean restaurant opening in the Parkson in District 2. The restaurant advertises itself as the “biggest buffet in the world”, so apparently you need plenty of flowers to celebrate the opening. Most of the texts were in Korean.
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There are many old trees in Saigon, and while some of them are moved away during construction, some of them are felled. These photos were taken when the branches had already been cut and the trunk was being lifted on the bed of the truck.
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And you always need at least as many observers as doers.
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Close by, there was an ATM being repaired. Many companies have uniforms, but this guy is squatting in ordinary clothes. He had taken many parts off the machine and placed them on the floor and on the steps. There is no air-con in most ATMs, so it is convenient to keep the door open. It just looks like he will put the parts into his backpack any minute.
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This a normal street restaurant serving pho, noodle soup. It is not a plastic chair place, as it has normal tables and human size (plastic) chairs. The meat is cut in the little trolley, broth and noodles added and the condiments taken to your table. Served with an iced green tea. This restaurant is run by a couple, it is quite busy, and by 1 pm they are usually out of food.
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The names of companies are sometimes funny, especially if it’s something that has very clearly been translated from English but not quite succeeding in it. This time the translation was correct (nam sao means five starts), but is was all the holes in the wall and the T barely hanging there.
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Some of the cobblers work on the street, at an unused bus stop or under a large umbrella. This guy on a street downtown was focusing on polishing the shoes and observing what was happening at the corner of the street. The price of the job is written on the sole of the shoe and you just describe your shoes when you pick them up.
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A couple of blocks away, the sidewalk is so packed with motorbikes, there isn’t even a chance to use the sidewalk. This is annoying for those Westerners who walk rather than ride motorbikes, as the street has quite a lot of traffic and you have to walk in the middle of the street.
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This umbrella was not used by a mobile phone sales person, but by a drinks vendor. Not quite the latest model.
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And when we are talking about the latest models of iPhone, Samsung or Nokia, this kind of stands can be seen on the road (this is Mai Chi Tho, the other road from District 2 into downtown). The ad promises “790 minutes network calls free, 79 minutes other calls free, and 790 MB high-speed 3G free”. Buy SIM and get Nokia mobile phone. The price of 199,000 vnd (about 8 euros or 9 usd) also includes the SIM card, charger and phone. Not quite the latest models..
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At the local market, there was a celebration in one of the houses. In the house I saw people around the table eating but couldn’t figure out what kind of celebration was going on. The decorations are in the middle of the market street with the vendors next door selling their veggies, and all market goers strolling or motorbiking past the house.
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Another type of fair was in the yard of a big household appliance store. They had offers on rice cookers, fans, electric kettles, most items by container, but they were also advertising they had a full container of Heineken at a reduced price.
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And this was my favourite sign in the appliance store. I haven’t seen U.S. Military Standard advertised with a dinosaur bite before.
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And when sidewalks are sometimes overtaken by motorbikes, it is very common to see the street sweepers store their carts nicely overnight or until their next shift. And the orange carts fit nicely with the flowery posters on the fence.
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Here is a view of Saigon from a bit different angle, makes the city look quite green. And for once a view during daytime. Saigon is a lovely city.
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Markets for all needs

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Besides the local fruit & vegetable market, there are several covered markets in Saigon. Probably the most famous is Chợ Bến Thành, the Ben Thanh market (Ch means market in Vietnamese). It has a very touristy section with clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs and bags. Not to mention coffee, dried fruit plus perfumes and shoes.

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Dried fruit, nuts and seeds.

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A large selection of souvenirs and vendors knowing a bit of many languages.

 

Ben Thanh building dates from 1912, and it is one of the focal points of the city with the roundabout and a bus station in front of it. Ben Thanh also has a fresh produce section, and that is frequented by locals alike. On the outside of the market beautiful flowers and fruits can be found.

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Ben Thanh building.

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Fresh flowers are available all year round.

A more manly is the Chợ Dân Sinh, also known as Yersin market. Dan Sinh is the place to go when you need tools, either for small repairs at home or  major construction in the industrial size. It is also a second hand market: Some construction companies sell their tools after they finish building, and then buy new or used ones when the next construction starts.

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Brands from all over the world.

 

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Big size tools.

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It never seems very crowded at Dan Sinh, and the vendors never seem to be in a rush.

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The vendors have a decent English vocabulary and with sign language and drawings, one can usually find the correct items.

Surrounding the Dan Sinh market is a vast collection of sellers of industrial fabrics and safety equipment.

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As usually in Saigon, the shops have spread out on the street.

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Many of the persons at the sewing machine are men, especially when working on big cloths and canvases, or even a tent.

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Nobody is bothered by the rooster next to the big rolls of wrapping materials.

Fabric market is called Tân Định, and it was also built in the 1920’s. There are other fabric markets in Saigon, but this is one of the most popular.

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Again a beautiful, though a bit worn building.

 

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If Dan Sinh is usually quiet, this market is always busy.

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When you find the fabric you like, you choose the colour. The vendors are good at saying how much of the fabric is needed for each piece of clothing.

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Vendor showing different fabrics. If the fabric you want is not on display, one of the girls or boys will go and get it from another stall. Or then the vendor climbs under or over the stacks of fabric and returns with another stack of fabric.

Chợ Bình Tây, or the new market as it replaced the old market, is located in Chinatown. It is also one of the most visited by tourists. This market is mainly for wholesale, so some vendors don’t even sell to visitors, other may sell but will keep a higher price.

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A map of the hundreds of stalls that are organised by items. Note the text in Chinese, as this market is located in Chinatown.

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These fabrics are only for wholesale.

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Usually the stalls are so full of merchandise, that it is not easy to see the original constructions of the stalls with old signs.

I think more interesting is the beautiful building, and the altar and four lions and four dragons in the inner yard, to honor Quach Dam who had Binh Tay market built.
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The dragons are left in the inner yard, where there was once a statue of the founder Quach Dam.

There are still plenty of markets I haven’t visited in Saigon. Once you learn where to get your essentials, there is no need to venture to the other markets. These markets are always full of people, not just the shoppers, but vendors, who sleep under or behind the piles of fabric, or on chairs in front of their stalls. Then there is a big traffic when items are carried on shoulders into the stalls. And a market always needs food vendors, who diligently squeeze past vendors and shoppers.

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Taking a nap between the boxes.

 

Chợ Lớn – Saigon’s Chinatown, part 2

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Saigon’s Chinatown is not completely Chinese like in some other countries. Yes, you see the signs in Chinese, but there is also plenty of Vietnamese around. Many buildings were built in the French style but by the Chinese for the Chinese.

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Lovely upper levels and traditional medicine sold on the ground floor with the modern motorbike parking.

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In the 18th century, the development of a canal network had started. It provided a system for transporting rice and other produce both to the market and to the port. The canal network was expanded until the end of 19th century when the French who occupied Vietnam at the time, became concerned with hygiene: the canals were used as dump, and besides the smell, diseases like malaria were spreading. Filling up of the canals was started in 1863 and the second last canal was filled in 1926.

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A map of the early 20th century and map of today – the canal has been filled and the street is tody called Hai Thuong Lan Ong, according to a great traditional medicine physician.

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One of the beautiful houses that were originally built along the canal but are located today along a busy road.

There were plenty of wealthy Chinese businessmen in Chợ Lớn. And several of them were generous and helped funding schools and hospitals in Chợ Lớn, which at one point had more schools and hospitals than Saigon.

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The initials TH can still be seen on the facade of the house where Thong Hiep had their headquarters.

The Thong Hiep headquarters were also located along the canal, today a street. The company was owned by Quach Dam, one of the  wealthy philantropists in Saigon and the funder and founder of the current Binh Tay market.

There is only one canal, Hang Bang Canal, that has not been filled, and is currently being renovated. The streets around the canal are not very fancy or special either, but hopefully when the canal has been redone, the whole area will have an upgraded look.

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Surroundings of the elder buildings close to Hang Bang canal are being renovated.

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Some of the temporary housing is barely 3 meters wide, when even the normal narrow houses are 5 meters.

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Big contrasts close to Hang Bang canal.

Nghia Nhuan is a small Communal Hall located close to Hang Bang Canal. It is on a street full of local life and nothing touristy, except us foreigners walking the streets.

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Daily life where old and new mingle easily.

Some of the Assembly Halls are decorated in more personal style. Phuoc An Assembly Hall has deer heads mounted on the wall, plaques of visiting dignitaries and the red horse statue. Quite an odd combination.

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What is the purpose of the mounted gilted deer heads?

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One of the three plaques commemorating visits to the Assembly Hall and to Cochinchine.

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The place is dedicated to Quan Cong, a Chinese general. So naturally there is a life-size statue of Quan Cong’s Red Hare Horse by the entrance.

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Beautiful carvings with Chinese characters.

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Despite having plenty of unusual elements, the Phuoc An Assembly Hall is a beautiful place to visit.

In front of the Post Office of Chợ Lớn is a roundabout. This also was part of the canal network. On one corner of the roundabout is a small house that is now an exhibition centre. Ho Chi Minh stayed in that house for several months in 1910 before embarking on a ship to France. The sign is only in Vietnamese and Uncle Ho goes by his earlier name Nguyen Tat Thanh.
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We walked around Chợ Lớn  and discovered many new roads and places to see. Chợ Lớn is a very interesting part of city, and definitely worth repeating visits to fully appreciate all its details and intricacies.
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Chợ Lớn – Saigon’s Chinatown, part 1

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This blog also has a little bit of history which is split between the pictures. Most of this information is from Tim Doling’s book “Exploring Ho Chi Minh City” and Wikipedia. These photos show streets and locations in Chợ Lớn that are quite different from the touristy sights.

The first mentions of Saigon date from 1623, when it was a small fishing village, part of the Khmer empire and called Prey Nokor. The Nguyễn lords who controlled the southern half of the Viet kingdom (around Central Vietnam) were allowed through marriage of a Nguyễn princess to the Khmer king, to establish a Vietnamese colony in Prey Nokor and to levy customs duties. The local Viet called the village Bến Nghé, which today is still the name of a ward in the downtown area.

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The outside of some of the old buildings are not that well kept.

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You would think a nice cafe would fit downstairs of an old colonial style house, but hardware was more dominant.

Chinese supporters of the deposed Ming dynasty started to arrive in Southern Vietnam in the 1640s. Some of them settled in Hoi An (Central Vietnam), and some west of Bến Nghé. They were known to be skilled traders and their settlement became known as Minh Hương (Minh Homeland commune).

 

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The Communal House of the Minh Huong community. This was the first Communal House where village gods were worshipped and local affairs administrated (not the original house, but the original location).

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Renovation was in progress at the Communal House, so many items were covered and others removed. It was still a beautiful place.

After the Tây Sơn peasant rebellion in the end of the 18th century, the Tây Sơn destroyed the Minh Hương community. The survivors rebuilt the town with high embankments for protection, and then renamed the new town Tai-Ngon in Cantonese (pronouned Dī’àn in Mandarin for embankment).

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Old shophouse. Without the motorbikes one could imagine being in the early 20th century.

In the 18th century Tai-Ngon  was an important trading centre for rice and other agricultural products from the Mekong Delta. Bến Nghé was a boat making town instead. Those two settlements began to develop.

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There are plenty of medicine shops in Cho Lon, and amongst the shops there are places where you can consult a Chinese medicine doctor as well.

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Modern meets tradition.

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No clue what’s in the bags but the medicine street has a peculiar smell.

In the late 19th century the French who ruled Cochinchine (the French Indochina), made Bến Nghé their capital and renamed it Saigon. Chợ Lớn (Big market) remained the name of the earlier Tai-Ngon.

 

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Apartment above the shop.

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Phu Dinh is the street that was used in the filming on The Lover based on Marguerite Duras’ book.

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One of the few original shophouse fronts that are left on Phu Dinh street.

With several waves of Chinese immigrants from different parts of China arriving to Chợ Lớn, there were eventually seven Assembly Halls built to serve settles from different cities.

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The Nhi Phu temple represents settlers from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou in southern Fujian province.

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The temple is believed to be built around 1765.

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One of the three shrines.

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Not the original bell but an interesting holder on top.

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The four heavenly kings who guard the gates to Heaven.

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Decoration on the wall of the rear hall.

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Chinese Assembly Hall schools were common and they were located next to the Assembly Hall. This on was built in 1907 and is now a state school.

By the 1930s, Chợ Lớn had expanded to the city limit of Saigon. In 1931, Chợ Lớn and the neighbouring Saïgon were merged to form a single city called ‘Saigon–Cholon’. The city continued to be referred to as ‘Saigon’. ‘Cholon’ was dropped from the city’s official name in 1956, after Vietnam gained independence from France in 1955.

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Francisco Xavier church dates from 1902.

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Although the church is of Gothic style, it has many elements of Oriental design, like the use of Chinese characters both at the gate and inside the church.

The tour continues in part 2.

 

 

Local wet market

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In the middle of An Phu district where we live, is the market I go to to get fresh fruits and vegetables. It is a very local market, most of the times I am the only Westerner, even only non-Vietnamese. It is the length of one street with some vendors on the side street, but mostly everyone is packed here, both vendors and buyers.

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Normally crowded around 7 or 8 am.

I have found the best watermelons, and I know which of the ladies to go to for papaya, mango and other favourites. The fruits in season are easy to spot: many vendors have them. The prices may vary daily, so I usually check the price but noticed locals don’t really haggle, and have given up on that.

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Some fruits are found all year around, while others are seasonal, but may have 2 or 3 seasons per year.

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This man peels the pineapple for the same price, usually 15,000 dong each, though this morning the price had gone up to 16,000 dong (0,6 euros to 0,64 euros).

My favourite saleswoman, my mango lady, is very talcative. She probably tries to explain why some of the mangoes or mangosteens or dragonfruit are more expensive than the others, but my Vietnamese is too limited to understand her, so I just nod. And buy whichever looks better.

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Around 9.30 and my mango lady has almost sold out her daily produce.

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Much more choice at 7 am, so I usually try to get there early.

The market opens early, and if I get there around 7 am, it is already full of action. Besides fruits, there are also vegetables, tofu, meats, fish, poultry (alive and dead), bread, ready dishes, underwear and motobike socks and gloves available. And the sellers are not organised by type of offering, so next to the chicken, there may be vegetables or tofu with clothes next to those.

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When there are no officials around, the vendors spread their baskets and boxes on the street.

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Do you want meat or fabric? I am still not sure how many of the vendors live in the houses behind the sales front. Not all but probably many.

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You get plenty of visibility when you display the underwear on the electricity pole.

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Children’s clothes are also sold next to houshold goods and fermented dishes and pickles.
Poultry is sold live or dead. If you are not careful, you will witness how the neck of the chicken is twisted the final time. Naturally, chicken are plucked on the spot. Meat is sold in Asian style: all parts of the animals are used and they are also on display on the counter.

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With their legs tied, the chicken are usually quite calm. Or maybe they realised what happened to one of them who is being plucked.

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Typical display: poultry sliced open, so that even the eggs can be seen.

Meat sometimes looks good, but I still have not bought any from here. My Vietnamese would not be sufficient to understand when the meat has been slaughtered and how the cold chain has been kept. And anyway the sellers could be saying anything they want.

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All meat parts are sold and also used in Vietnamese kitchen.

I missed the moment of a salesman chopping the heads of frogs with scissors. Frogs are commonly found at markets, as is seafood of different sorts. Vietnamese love their little snails and shellfish. Some of the fish actually looks quite nice, but it it has been grown in a place like our local ditch, it probably tastes just like mud and is full of toxins.

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There is often ice or cold running water to keep the fish and seafood fresh.

 

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Nothing unusual in stepping into the fish tank.

Most people come to the market by motorbike and some by bicycle. And no question to leave the bikes at the beginning of the street: everybody rides up and down the street. Actually, if you park your bike and venture two tables away, you get yelled at because you are blocking the other vendor’s parking spot. So you move amongst the fruits, veggies, clothes, shrimp vats and other bikes and motorbikes.

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Don’t ask me anything about the cleanliness of the produce. Some are kept on the sidewalk or the pavement, but some look clean and nice. But there are hardly any flies, not even at a later hour, like 11 am.

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Bamboo shoots, banana blossomes I know, but there are plenty of greens I have no clue what they are or how to use them. But they still look nice.

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More exotic or strange vegetables: ocra, carambola, banana blossom and flowers.

I also enjoy going to the market as it is a splendid display of colours. And the fruits and vegetables are always laid out nicely in piles, pyramids or bundles. I strongly recommend a visit for everyone living in Saigon.
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Trip to Mekong Delta

We still had not visited Mekong Delta, but now got a good reason when our friends visiting were interested in seeing life on the big river. We did a one-day trip to have a look at the Mekong.

The Mekong Delta encompasses a large portion of Southwestern Vietnam. It has been inhabited already in the prehistorial times. It has been ruled by the Chinese, the Khmer and it was the first colony of the French, known then as Cochinchine. In total, Mekong is about 4,300 km long and is the 12th longest river in the world.

Mekong Delta lies west of Saigon. In Vietnamese, Mekong is called Cửu Long or Nine Dragons and the Delta is called Nine Dragon River, named after the nine estuaries of the Mekong.  We took off by car and drove two hours to the city of Ben Tre. It is the coconut capital of the country. From there we started our adventurous day.

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Our welome drink was naturally a coconut.

We got to the river and boarded our nice sampan. We started slowly our trip on Mekong. Plenty of palm trees on both banks of the river. Ships carrying coconuts. Brown water. Where we were Mekong was still relatively narrow and the stream was not too strong. We were 40 km from the sea and about 70 km from the Cambodian border.

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Sitting in the shade on the sampan made you forget how hot it was in April.

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Coconuts being taken to one of the local factories.

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A common sight on the river: mounds of coconuts and chimneys letting steam out.

There are around 30 species of coconuts in the Ben Tre area. What are the differences between the species is still not too clear to me. Coconut is an amazing fruit, as all parts of the fruit can be used. We were shown how the coconuts are opened with a spear looking tool.mek17

Coconuts are opened one by one, and the outher shell or husk is used to make fibre (for ropes for instance).

The juice is poured into a canister to be cooked to make candies (very popular in Vietnam). Then the fruit is given to a guy who very handily with his special tool, takes the shell off.

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While working on the coconuts, this guy surprised us with an excellent knowledge on South African and Finnish politics and Finnish soccer hero Litmanen.

Two ladies sitting on their plastic chairs then peel the coconut with a regular peeling knife.
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No trace of peel remained on the coconuts.

The inner shells are burned in a furnace. It is heated and the coconuts are kept there until they become charcoal. Then they are used as fuel.

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The steam coming from the furnace chimney is to cool down the coconuts once they are burnt enough.

We also saw a very manual brick factory. Blending the clay was pretty much the easiest task. The clay was pressed through a mould and then the bricks were piled and dried. There were two kilns where the bricks were then burned. They were stacked manually into the kiln and also taken out manually. About 80,000 bricks fit into the kiln. They were burned for a week and then let cool for 10 days. There is always a couple on duty one night each, when the kiln is on. Every hour they add coconut husk that is used as fuel. Then the bricks were taken to the market to be sold in packs of one thousand.

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Bricks drying in the yard.

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The kiln was also made by hand.

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The tens of thousands of bricks that have been laid into the kiln manually, are also taken out manually. The metal chute is used to drop bricks one by one from the top of the pile.

Then we embarked on bicycles to head to the rice noodle factory. Our friend had not ridden a bicycle in 47 years, but after a slightly wobbly start, he was going like a pro. So the saying that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you never forget that skill, holds true! We biked through countryside, so not much traffic but some school boys who wanted to practice their English with us.
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We also learnt how roofs are made with palm leaves.

The rice noodle factory was also a manual one. Rice dough is spread on bambou holders in the morning and they dry during the day. In the afternoon the sheets of dried rice are taken in, removed from the holders and then sliced in a machine. In the afternoon the noodles are then taken to the market to be sold.

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The rice flower dough drying out in the midday sun.

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Removing the rice sheets and piling them. The holders can be reused for about one year.

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Rice sheets are shredded and then packed into plastic bags to be taken to local market.

We embarked on a small boat that was paddled by two ladies. We went along narrow waterways. Birds were singing and there were some locals, but it was peaceful and relaxing. The ladies took as back to Mekong and we returned to our sampan.

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This part of the river was very narrow and our rowing boat was just wide enough to feel comfortable but not blocking the whole river.

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Nice and quiet.

Fishing is one of the main livelihoods, so there were plenty of fish traps in the morning when we boarded our sampan, but by lunch time the tide was high and none of them could be seen.

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A local fisherman with his traps.

We had a really nice lunch at the guest house’s restaurant, which was followed by a walk through the small village to the rice pancake lady. She had retired, but still made pancakes by order. We also got to show our skills. Not very surprising, we were slow compared to her and her pancakes tasted really nice.

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Ms Sau could make 100 pancakes in an hour.

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It took us nearly ten minutes to make four pancakes.

We returned to our sampan and started our way back. We saw more coconut factories and even some more advanced plants where coconut was refined and exported into the cities. There were also ship yards where both wooden and iron ships were being restored.

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A full load of jars.

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Wooden boats with the traditional eyes to scare off monsters or to help find the back home.

We returned to Ben Tre to begin our journey back to Saigon. We hope to do another longer trip to the Mekong Delta later. It is only two hours from Saigon but it feels like being in the countryside.

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Fishing local style

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Close to our compound, there is a canal or rather a ditch. It is located between the Hanoi Highway and the local road. The water level there changes either with tide, or then water is run there from somewhere. But it can change a lot within one day, even within a couple of hours. When the water is high, the ditch looks ok.

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The ditch with the warning sign for risk of electrocution.

When the water is low, the ditch stinks. Sometimes one can even see the muddy bottom.
Looking at the tunnel leading to the ditch would prevent many from even getting close to the water, but not locals.

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And the smell goes hand in hand with the sight at low tide.

There are fishermen, as they are almost always men, pretty much every time I drive or walk by.

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Fishing when the ditch is full of water hyacinth (and some garbage as well).

There are two styles of fishing: one is with the traditional fishing rod. I haven’t seen what kind of bait they use. The other is a fishing net. To use it, one crawls up to the waist in the water.

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Finally got a photo of a young guy with his fishing net that one holds with both hands and drops into water.

 

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Keep the fishing net in the bucket to make the job easier.

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A typical Vietnamese pastime: smoking a cigarette and fishing.

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And bravely in to the water with the net.

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A bit muddy today.

Sometimes the fishermen with the net even wear their motorbike helmets in the water. And there can be a group of two or three in the water.

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One is fishing with a rod while the other is using the net, and kids are observing.

I have seen most of the fishermen carry a bucket. Sometimes they catch a tiny fish (maybe 10 cm), ofter smaller ones. Considering the ditch and all the construction and traffic next to it, I would not touch any of those fish.

More than a year ago, a swimming pool was placed in the ditch. I have never seen anyone use it, so it probably is just an advertising for swimming pools. But its water looks very clear with the bright blue bottom, so perhaps that is a good selling point.

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The swimming pool looks nice, but the surrounding not so much.

Last December, the city decided to clean a section of the ditch. The workers pulled the water hyacinths by hand. And in a very Vietnamese way, they were wearing the regular overalls or jacket and pants, made with thick cotton or jeans fabric, and life jackets on top. Work safety is a big thing here, but it is sometimes applied oddly. Usually, most workers do not wear any gloves, even when they move metal or other heavy items. But these guys did for some reason.

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Besides water hyacinth, there was plenty of garbage in the ditch.

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Life jackets and helmets.

After a couple of days of work, the water hyacinth was gone.

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The ditch looks spacious and nice for a while. And now the fishermen can also go to the lower step when it finally can be seen.

The next section of the ditch is quite beautiful with all the lotus flowers blossoming. Maybe this section described above will also be nicer and fresher in the future.

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About 200 meters further, there are lovely lotus in the ditch, and nobody fishing there.

 

 

 

Hội An – old town and beach

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Hoi An is another location in Vietnam that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a well-preserved example of a south-east Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.

The reason the old town in Hoi An is so well preserved, is that in the 18th century the Emperor Gia Long gave the French exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Da Nang. Hoi An was pretty much forgotten for the next 200 years, which means that for a long time nothing old was destroyed to build something more modern.

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The Japanese Bridge is the entrance to the old town and the oldest landmark of the city.

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It still resembles the old picture and is a popular sight.

The old town comprises of a bit more than 4 streets by 6 streets encompassing dozens of beautiful old buildings. Most of them are painted yellow and two stories high with a mossy roof. The old town is very lively as it is full of restaurants, shops and tailors.

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As coffee culture is becoming more and more popular, the are also cafes popping up in the old town.

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Some of the buildings are really in need of new fresh paint.

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The waterfront seen from the other side of the walking bridge. The restaurants here offer great views over the river.

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The lanterns are nice also during daytime.

There are also several historical houses that can be visited. The entry fee is included in the entrance ticket to the old town.

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In all the old houses, there are guides who tell about the house and its history and structure – and promote the souvenirs they have for sale.

The old houses have the fifth or sixth generation still living in them. Photos of ancestors are posted on the walls. During the floods, furniture is lifted upstairs and yearly levels of water are noted on the wall.

 


Hoi An is a culinarists heaven. I think some of the best meals we have had is in Hoi An. Both Vietnamese and Western food are great. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and over my four visits toi Hoi An, I have never been disappointed with my meal.

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A small Vietnamese restaurant that was the first serving international visitors.

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Besides My Quang, a local speciality noodle soup, fresh spring rolls were also our favourites.

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Vy’s Market is a restaurant where you can go around and order what looks good, have the dish cooked and served to your table. Great way to explore Vietnamese food!

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One of the nice terraces to sit down and have an excellent cocktail while admiring the town at night.

In the evening, thousands of lanterns are lit up all over the old town and around it. People walk around, heading for drinks, food or an evening stroll.

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The details starting from the inside of the roof..

The walking bridge is lit with lights depicting fish and Hoi An logo. There are some bigger statues as well. It is very popular to pose by these.

 

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The lanterns are the icon of Hoi An. There are plenty of shops selling them, and at night the sea of lights gives the old town a very special feeling.

Hoi An is also famous for tailor shops. There is more than one in every block. Besides tailor shops, one can find plenty of shops selling clothing, shoes, bags, scarves, placemats and other souvenirs. And lanterns, of course.

 

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No need to travel with a full suitcase, there are plenty of shops around.

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There are also photo, lacquerware and embroidery galleries for art lovers.

An easy way to get around Hoi An is by bicycle. Most have relatively non-working brakes, but it is still a pleasure to ride around town, or to the beach.

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With bicycles is it easy and faster to see the other parts of the city.

Ferries are also a common way to move around the delta area.

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These ferries leave from the waterfront every 10 to 15 minutes or when they are full (and full by Vietnamese standard).

Most people who visit Hoi An, visit also the beach. The beach is 5 km from the old town. There are some beach hotels, or the trip can be done by bike or by taxi. The beach is nice, and it is the place to see the famous round basket boats.

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The beach at Cam An was not too crowded in September.

There are nice hotels in Hoi An, which is clearly pricier than Hue. I have stayed in three cute and cosy places.CIMG0061We really liked the small balconies each room had at the Nhi Nhi Hotel.

There is no airport or train station in Hoi An, the closest ones are in Da Nang, a half an hour taxi ride away. So getting to Hoi An is easy. Hoi An is a lovely city definitely worth a visit.

 

Hue – the Imperial Capital

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Hue, situated in Central Vietnam, was the Imperial Capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen dynasty. Hue was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen, the last royal dynasty of Vietnamese history. It is a popular place to visit and the complex of Hue monuments is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Entrance to the Imperial City.

The centre of the Nguyen dynasty emperors was the Imperial City. It is a walled city and palace inside the Citadel. Besides the thick wall surrounding, it is also ringed by a moat.

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Plenty of beautiful buildings, some restaured, some in ruins.

The Imperial City is surprisingly large, but has nice footpaths and green areas. There are many lovely buildings and some in more or less ruins. The place was full of beautiful decorations with plenty of details.
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Even thoug only some of the buildings have been completely restaured and some are in less good shape, one can imagine what the City looked like in height of its glory.

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There are also some impressive wooden buildings.

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The amount of details and decorations is really impressive.

The holiest place was the The Mieu palace, where all the fromer emperors had their altars. There was a photo on the altar for most of them. It was one of the most interesting buildings, as our guide went through all of them and explained their part in the history of Vietnam and how they had ruled. It was forbidden to take photos, so only a picture of the outside here.

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The building is quite simple inside, but the decorative altars, red pillars and wooden floor gave it a very serence feeling.

No tour of Hue is complete without a visit to Thien Mu pagoda and at least one of the tombs. Thien Mu pagoda is the symbol of the city, and it is located in a beautiful spot by the Perfum river.

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The pagoda on an almost rainy day.

 

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Entrance to the Imperial City.

There are also several tombs, of which we only visited one, tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. It was located on a quiet spot in the middle of nature. This was used as a summer palace and retreat in life, and where Tu Duc was eventually buried after his death.

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The pavilion on the lake, surrounded by nature.

 

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The Stele Pavilion, with the writings on the stele drafted by Tu Duc.

 

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The tomb where Tu Duc is not buried.

Hue food is said to be special, royal cuisine. We tried some of the local dishes, but were not impressed with them. We had different rice flour pancakes and most of them were served with dried shrimps. Luckily, there were several good restaurants in the city.

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Some of the local dishes looked interesting.

 

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But our jury was not fully convinced by the taste.

Besides the Royal sightseeings, we didnot find much to do or see. Downtown Hue was small enough to be covered by foot.

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Local traffic policewoman standing on a pedestal that was moved there when the rush hour started.

And to get to our next destination Hoi An, we took the train from Hue to Da Nang. It was a nice 3-hour train ride with some lovely sceneries. Definitely worth doing.

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Hue station is not very big or busy.

 

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Excellent views from the train.