Thursday, April 5, 2012

cai be floating market

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twice now i've promised you a post about the markets in vietnam so here comes a post about a very special type of market, one that floats.  trust me, it'll be worth the hype!  since i didn't make it to the damnoen saduak floating market of james bond fame while we were in thailand i decided that i wouldn't make the same mistake while i was in vietnam and jumped at the chance to do a tour of the mekong delta that included a trip to the floating market in cai be. the day also included a trip to an apiary and a coconut candy factory, both of which were very informative and delicious but this blog is about my market adventures.  you can read all about the other two in my other blog, the coconutty beekeeper.  just kidding.  well for now anyway, i could get into that.  but back to the market!  cai be is one of the largest wholesale markets in southern vietnam and for a lot of the sellers the river is their entire life and livelihood.  the merchants buy the goods from local farmers and transport them from farm to market via boat and shopkeepers from neighboring towns come to the market to get products to fill their shops with.  the coolest feature of the market is a little device that the merchants use to advertise their wares called a "cay beo".  it's a bamboo pole attached to the front of the boat on which the merchants hang up whatever it is that they have to sell.  that way when you're floating down the river and you get a craving for some watermelon you don't have to float up to every single boat asking if they're selling it.  you just look for the boat that has a watermelon hung up from its cay beo and bam, watermelon craving sated.  pretty genius if you ask me.  you know i had my eyes peeled for a bamboo pole with some beautiful gems dripping from it but sadly no such luck.  i did manage to find some of the best rambutan i've ever eaten though.  the vinh long province boasts the best rambutan in all of vietnam and i gotta say, they more than delivered on that boast.

a cay beo adveritsing yams in the distance.  it's time like these that i miss cooking for myself.

this boat was selling grain.  no cay beo necessary here.

all of the boats had the most amazing painted faces.  ryan thought i was crazy when i kept talking about how cute the boat's faces were until he finally saw what i was talking about.  someone needs some glasses.  and it's not these boats.

bringing the day's purchases home.  just slightly different from a typical supermarket trip.

the best rambutan in all of vietnam.  photo by jim richter.

 after our day in the mekong delta we had a day to wander around saigon and take in the ben thanh central market on dry land.  totally boring after you've experienced one that floats.  the market was full of touristy stuff like uncle ho chi minh t-shirts and vietnamese silk, which would have been more fun to shop if the sellers weren't quite so hardcore.  they didn't really seem to understand the concept of just browsing at this market.  i made the mistake of asking the price of a bracelet and went to put it back when the price was exorbitant and the seller followed me around for a few more stalls yelling at me that people shouldn't come to this market to look and why are you even looking if you're not buying.  i mean i've worked retail and i'm familiar with the hard sell but cool it lady!  needless to say, i didn't buy anything from her.  luckily the ben thanh market has more to offer than just mediocre t-shirts and aggressive merchants, the food stalls are where this market really shines.  there are stalls that specialize in every kind of vietnamese delicacy you can imagine and where the merchants in other parts of the market might have a lot to learn, these merchants are masters of their game.  i had the best prawn spring rolls of my life and some amazing chao ga (rice porridge with chicken).  confession, the porridge had this weird, soft, brown stuff in it in addition to pieces of chicken and i ate every last one of them.  i still have no idea what it was.  i'm choosing to believe it was tofu.  really dark tofu.  ryan tried the vietnamese classic pho bo (beef noodle soup).  we finished the day at the fruit market and capped off our feast with a delicious mango and dragon fruit.  and by we did i mean i did, because ryan hates any fruit that isn't blended into a smoothie.  whatever, more for me! 

the ben thanh central market in saigon.  not featured, the overly aggressive shopkeeper.  i figured if looking wasn't allowed photos were probably a no go as well.

so look at that, one post, two markets, lucky you!  too bad this post was less of a things i bought post and more of a things i ate post.  next stop indonesia, and i promise i'll shop more!

1 comment:

  1. Great photos!! The market looks awesome!