Monday, March 9, 2009

Walking in the Rain

When last we met, I was off on a walk with the sons, and it was a good one. We walked further down a street than we'd been before and found a huge traffic circle we had no idea was there. Then we backtracked, crossed over the Perfume River for the first time, and went to market. I had read about the Dong Ba market in the guidebooks; it's cited as one of the places to buy conical hats that have poems embedded in them that can be read when the slats of the hat are viewed in the right direction. We entered the market, though, somewhat through the back door of the open-air produce area. Now, open air plus rain all morning equals mud, which made for some fancy stepping. I didn't realize until later that older son was wearing sandals; it was only much later that he said to remind him to wear shoes when we went back. Oops! The whole thing was somewhat of an exercise in over-stimulation. On one level I just wanted to stop and stare at the displays of fruits and vegetables, listen to the haggling or chit-chat not to mention the motorbikes coming and going, and smell the different odors all tinged with the smell of wet. On the other hand, I didn't want to be intrusive, and since we were the only Westerners in there, I already felt a bit out-of-place. There may have been more Westerners in there had the weather been better. I do know that there are a lot more Westerners walking around here than I thought there would be, though not many of them are speaking English. French, German, Russian, but not too much English. I thought just for an instant about trying to buy something, preferably something I didn't recognize, but decided against it. A lot of the purchases seemed to be being done in large quantities, so for all I know this is where the cafes go to purchase produce, not single user types like me. I didn't really see any prices posted either, so making a purchase might have been a bit awkward. When we emerged from the produce market, we were out on the street. We walked down a bit in front of all sorts of colorful shopfronts, then turned down a narrow path into what was, I think, the Dong Ba market mentioned in the guidebooks. "Madame, madame!" "Madame, you like this?" "Madame, look here!" T-shirts, lanterns, a bit of silk, and even conical hats, though I couldn't tell if they were the ones with the poems. It was like a maze, and I know we saw only a small fraction of what was there. The pathways between displays were so tight that I didn't try to take any photos, again not wanting to be intrusive or too touristy. When we got back out on the street, I did shoot some photos for the incredible colors and variety of the things for sale. Here's a sampling, starting with flowers
and continuing with something whose identity I now can't figure out, but hey, it was colorful. There were also doorknobs, pottery, and my personal favorite, though not one I would ever purchase, in what looked like an apothecary shop. Yes, those are what you think they are.

After the market, we went back across the river. Younger son wanted to make sure that his film had not been fogged by any of the airport X-ray machines, so we stopped at a couple of photo places to look into developing. Alas, most of them were digital only. We finally went into the Mandarin Cafe, where the owner greeted us by asking about the camera older son was holding. Then he and younger son started discussing digital versus film, and color versus black and white, and the next thing you know younger son had been steered in the direction of a photo shop that would develop color film. The owner, Mr. Cu, is a bit of a photographer himself and shared with us several of his albums as well as the flyers for photo shows he'd had at studios in France and Italy. We also learned how he could not work from 1975 until 1990 because he had driven a firetruck for the Americans during the war. It was one of those wonderful experiences that make travel the adventure it is. Plus, the food was excellent not to mention dirt-cheap. I have told the sons not to get too used to it because when they are touring Europe they will not be able to get three coffees, one fresh fruit juice, one fruit shake, one sparkling water, one sauteed beef with rice, one fried rice with seafood, one tofu and vegetables, and one order of French fries, all together for under $9.00. And the Mandarin is actually pricier than the Stop and Go, where five adults last night ate dinner (including beer) for less than $20.00. I'm starting to ramble now, so it's time to post this and move on to other things.

7 comments:

Debi said...

Well, can I just say "thank you" for letting me experience your adventures second-hand?!! Your posts are wonderful, Jean!

Karen said...

I like the lizards in the jar. Pickled? Hard to tell. One of you might try something like it before you return home...who knows.

VA said...

Yes, Europeans vacation in Thailand, Vietnam, etc - these are closer to home and cheaper - while getting there is more difficult and expensive for Americans, even those who have discovered Qatar Air!
You are definitely in SE Asia! Enjoy as only you can and your sharing is fabulous!

Chad said...

And the eyes of those poor jarred critters, is that their real color? Or are they stuffed with something, like olives are with pimentos?

Janet said...

As to the lizards (those look like pimentos or something similar), I think it's bizarre that they look like their front legs are holding each other, sort of like a line dance. They ARE sold as food?

Jean said...

Chad & Janet,

It's hard to say about the eyes. I will be honest. I did not go into the shop and shot the photo in a hurry so as not to have the shop owner try to entice me to get something. As I said, it appeared to be some sort of medicinal shop rather than a food shop, but I would think the lizards would be consumed rather than what, rubbed on something? I asked Don, Steve, and Blaine for a vote, and because of the red things sitting on the bottom of the jar, their feeling is that the eyes have been replaced. When we go back across the river, perhaps I'll be brave enough to ask. Travel is like that; it makes you braver than you were before.

Jean

Caroline M said...

I wondered how many jars I would need to pack before I got those lizards lined up so neatly.