Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Saigon Vacation- Episode I: The Beer Hunter, pt 2

When last you left your intrepid explorer, he and his cohort had decided that a cool drink might clear their heads and give them courage to brave the mean streets of Saigon (Note: I should have mentioned that it's technically Ho Chi Minh City, but nobody calls it that). We spent a while thinking and drinking and people watching- Saigon is a great place to people watch. Vietnamese, Eurotrash, ugly Americans, kids selling bracelets/fans/bric-a-brac, all passing by as I sat there figuring where to go next. We decided we'd head out and make our way to the Ben Thanh night market....but not before a bite to eat and perhaps another drink. Off we went.

I hadn't had enough to drink to think that hopping in one of these was a good idea:

We wandered into another bar to nosh on some fried pork spring rolls.

Vietnamese food was introduced to me only last year, but it's quickly risen up the list of ethnic foods I like most. These rolls were slammin' dipped in that Nuoc mam (fish sauce). I forgot to take a picture before I'd already started eating. I'm a dude, sorry. We also stopped and got Banh mi, which is hands down one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. If I return to Vietnam, the first thing I do will be track down a Bahn mi stand. The Banh Mi cost 10,000 Dong which equals....50 cents.
I wasn't really sure what was in the sandwich, so I had to look it up on Wikipedia: "Banh mi is a sandwich made with thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, pate, mayonnaise, and various meat fillings or tofu. Popular bánh mì fillings include roasted or grilled pork, Vietnamese sausage, chicken, Head cheese and ham." What the...Head Cheese?! I hope I didn't eat that.

With full bellies, off we ventured into the night.
The streets of Saigon were a pedestrian's nightmare. There seemed to be a never-ending flow of scooters and taxis, none of them paying mind to two awesome backpacking Americans trying to cross the street. I now know what Frogger felt like. We managed to make it to the market relatively unscathed.

The market teemed with people shopping and manning stalls as far as I could see. There were stalls selling everything: foodstuffs, coffee, knock off designer watches/clothing/bags (sorry babygirl, none for you)/shoes and enough t-shirts to clothe the entire population of the Philippines. All goods were relatively cheap- except the Vietnamese coffee I bought which clearly had the American mark up, but it smelled so good I couldn't pass it up. Life is too short to drink bad coffee or beer.

I picked up a rice hat for the girls to add to their collection of dress up clothes (Addie loves to dress up like princesses and the VC). It was as tiny as a hat for little girls should be, and the Vietnamese girls at one of the t-shirt stands couldn't stop laughing about it.
Here's what I didn't eat at the night market:
Or this:

That's dried squid on the back of a motorcycle. It smelled as appetizing as it looks. After the market, we meandered through the city admiring the buildings the French had put up when they were running things.

Somehow during our walkabout we managed to fit in a stop at a travel agency to book a one day trip out of the city to visit the main Cao Dai temple (a kind of kooky religion) and the Cu Chi tunnels (site of some nasty fighting during the war). The bus left at 0800, so we decided to call it a night. We got a little lost on the way home,
but I eventually found my alley.
Tomorrow- Episode II: Apocalypse Wow (for real this time)


Sara said...

I need one of those sandwiches. The market looked like a ton of fun and Manila has enough fake designer bags to last me a lifetime. I love you!

Elyse said...

Dude, you totally ate head cheese!

Rachel said...

I'd like to know why you ate head cheese and not any of the grilled snails or frog or some of that appetizing squid??

Terry said...

The VC hats are great for gardening. I can't believe you passed on the squid, and thank you for not mentioning homeless dogs as one of the sandwich ingredients.

The Gunning Family said...

I'm still laughing about the frogger comment! Head cheese was just added fun!