“Cumulatively they create a climate of cynicism and alienation that is poisonous to relationships. Many people end up feeling romantic about material objects yet deeply cynical about other human beings. In a society in which one of two marriages ends in divorce, we are offered constancy through our products. As one ad says, “Some people need only one man. Or one woman. Or one watch.” Okay, so we can’t be monogamous – at least we can be faithful to our watches. Because of the pervasiveness of this kind of advertising, we learn from childhood that it is safer to make a commitment to a product than to a person, far easier to be loyal to a brand.”
As-salam, just returned home from Vietnam last night.
|The main entrance to Cho Ben Thanh|
But, of course, there was that temporary relief in the Jakarta-Bandung trips before they (aspiring entrepreneurs, travel agent wannabes and fixated housewives with husbands and children in tow) arrive in droves to HCMC, mostly via Air Asia.
Most of them put up at two or three star hotels with Vietnamese sounding names which line the filthy, narrow lanes leading to their new found Valhalla.
|One of the lanes leading to Ben Thanh|
Like addicts, they came primarily for the 'fix' from ruthless bargaining with beleaguered retailers, who pushed their wares in the congested market lots during the day and equally crammed stalls on Pan Chu Trinh Street at night.
|The crowd swarm in |
as soon as the gates open at 8am
Both pushers and addicts are out to get the best deal from their brief, or sometimes protracted, transactions. There's hardly compassion lost on both sides, just the adrenalin rush from intense bargaining and a 'high' from purchasing or disposing of coveted items at the most favourable prices.
To help push sales, the desperate retailers were more than eager to pick up Malay from their regular patrons. Hence, calls of "Kakak, kakak, abang, abang, murah, murah" would be ringing in your ears long after you walked out of the marketplace.
|When night falls, both sellers and buyers thronged|
the night market outside
The Viet Valhalla
The front entrance of Ben Thanh Market faces Quach Thi Trang Square, where the statue of Nguyen Han on his horse grace its area. Its rear faces Le Thanh Ton Street. On its right is Phan Chu Trinh Street and on its left, Phan Boi Chau Street. There are four gates which serve as sirens to lure in the shoppers.
On all its four sides, countless fix and mobile counters offer all sorts of stuff, from coconut juice to iPad covers.
Inside, theMarket is choked with all kinds of commodities under the Vietnamese sun, from textiles to 'knock-off' handbags, shoes and clothings, souvenirs, nuts and candies, local hawker food, fresh fruit and vegetables.