Ho Chi Minh city is filled with street markets filled with everything from fruit to live fish, from meat and dried squid to beautiful fabric. The food markets in Vietnam have some of the freshest and tastiest tropical fruit that I have ever tasted.
Smelly, chaotic, people grabbing at you and people shouting in a language you don’t understand…..sounds horrendous, but it’s actually an amazing experience. After all, you don’t have to buy anything at the markets, just go there for the experience. The smell of Durian fruit (which is banned in some places due to it’s pungeant aroma) permeates the air of some parts of the market but there are so many other strong smells that compete with each other.
Depending on what fruit is in season you can usually get a whole kilogram of litchis or tasty mangostenes for as little as $2. The stalls usually appreciate repeat business and you will find that the fruit and food get cheaper after a while as they get to know you and start giving you local prices in stead of “tourist” prices.
The one thing that amazed me about the small markets was that some of the stalls only sell one kind of fruit and lots of it. I hope they change what they sell according to what is in season.
The markets are filled with fish stalls where you know your fish is super fresh as they are mostly still alive! They don’t just have fish but also clams and even water snails if that is what you are in the mood for.
This market really has a bit of everything for everyone here, as long as you are prepared to be hassled to buy or if you do find something of interest, prepared to haggle to a good price. Everything is over-priced, every stall holder wanting you to come and buy from them, but you get used to it over here and eventually it just goes in one ear and out the other as far as their sales pitch is concerned. Shop around the stalls, you will generally find another stall with the same items at a cheaper price if you are willing to haggle to it.
The sellers are friendly and will follow you a few meters if you ask questions about something then walk away (like any market) but this is also a good way to bargain! they sometimes may touch your arm but it’s in no way unfriendly although for someone who is claustrophobic like me it definitely put me off from buying an item more than once..
Personally I wouldn’t buy meat that hung out here in the market all day long. You don’t see any flies on it right now but I am sure the meat hanging un covered or cooled in the heat is not good for it.
The most shocking thing that I found at one of the small local markets in Ho Chi Ming in my first week was a fermented bear cub between jars of fermented snakes. Yes it was a real bear cub fermented in wine that men then drink for “strength”. Just like the famous snake wine of Vietnam, in which you have a real snake and sometimes even a scorpion, I would not taste this wine even if you paid me.