Now I’m in my new apartment I’ve had to change my lifestyle slightly: cooking at home more often, cleaning my own place, doing my laundry in a washing machine etc etc. I’ve visited a number of different stores and markets to get the goods. But first: a quick return to my former ‘hood, the Old Quarter…
In the Old Quarter each street used to sell a particular item and many of the streets still reflect that. This is the display window of a shop selling herbs, tinctures and various potions and liquors with critters in them. Gives you an idea of the size of the snakes in Vietnam. Last Saturday night I saw my first snake being killed in a restaurant and its blood being drained into a glass. The snake was about 6-7 feet long.
Before the Autumn Moon Festival there were lots of colourful street markets selling toys, lanterns and various decorations for the event. I think this past year has been the Year of the Bull. Some of the toys were very entertaining. The son of the hotel managers had a small rod on the end of which was a dancing man in a dragon costume with flashing eyes.
I enjoy looking at the shops at night with their lit interiors. This corner is just down the street from the hotel. There are so many small shops here. Everybody sells or services something. Even if they just have a little set of shelves with cigarettes and a few bottles of water and pop – there they are sitting out front, ready to sell.
And of course the street vendors. Some of them target the tourists but many sell to the restaurants and the residents, stopping at homes as they carefully bounce down the streets.
When I moved there were a number of things I needed to get right away: a towel, a big knife, cheese, canned goods etc etc. So off I went to the Big C, a large, WalMart type store that has everything. I loaded up on heavy goods also as I took a taxi back. These two bags cost me in excess of 1M dong, roughly $65. But now I was set up to cook and clean at home.
The next day I went exploring the lanes around my apartment. Sure enough there are lots of small shops and street vendors. So I came home with this bag of goods.
Mostly fluids… water, a few cans of beer, a 6-pack of green tea drink, a bunch of bananas and one very large grapefruit. This bag cost me about 75,000 dong ($5). There’s a large market on the way to school so I stopped in there and purchased a bag of veggies, cooking oil, toilet paper etc. That bag was also very inexpensive, although I’ve no doubt they charged me tay (westerner) prices.
Then yesterday I discovered a good sized store just around the corner. I loaded up on fluids again (very important in this heat) and got a few little items like a teapot. All for about $10. Today I realized I’d have to deal with a load of rapidly browning bananas and that a rice cooker would be handy. So back to the local store.
The local store has a varied selection of goods: food, cooking utensils, clothing, toys, paper goods and a whole separate room with shoes and appliances. The rice cooker cost a bit under $10, the blender a bit over $20 and the bedside lamp about $6. They even plugged the items in and tested them to make sure they worked. I had rice with my stir fry for lunch and then blenderized the bananas with yogurt, passionfruit juice, soy milk and ice. And now I can read in bed easily. Slowly, slowly I’m finding my way around here. But I don’t think I’ll be buying (or eating) any snake just yet.