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Street shopping

September 28, 2010

The Vietnamese seem to be very entrepreneurial. Many people live either in or over their stores. If the people don’t own a store then they drive it around on their bikes, squat on the sidewalk next to it, or carry it on their shoulders.

The little produce that I’ve purchased since I got here hasn’t been from the Fivimart, but from ladies on the street. Every day when I leave the hotel I have ladies with huge straw baskets on their bicycles trying to sell me roses, lilies, strelitzia (bird of paradise,) grapes, apples, green oranges, hairy cherries, tiny pineapples, dragon fruit, melons, pomegranates, and many other fruits and flowers whose names I don’t know. Unless I actually want to purchase something I try to avoid eye contact because they will keep offering – though they aren’t at all pushy.

On the bridge by the lake, ladies sit amid piles of green coconuts ready to chop the tops off with their machetes, and give you a straw to drink the milk. Other ladies sit with big knives and what look like huge green grapefruits. The skin is about an inch thick and they peel it in long green and white coils so you can get to the wedges of fruit.

The ladies are small, most wear the traditional cone hat, long sleeve shirts (pale skin is very important here), pants and some kind of rubber flip flop or sandal. I have a feeling they don’t get rich selling fruit. I can’t figure out how they keep the bikes moving when the weight is so much more than their bodies. When they aren’t pushing or riding their bikes they squat on the sidewalks together. Once in a while you catch one sitting on a curb sleeping.

Some women carry a pole across one shoulder with a basket hanging from the end of each pole. Some of the baskets are full of pots of food. I can’t imagine that this is easy on their bodies either.

They seem to sell everything off their bikes and carts, including brooms, dusters, bras, underwear, and clothes, but I see those more in the Old Quarter and not near where we stay.

I have purchased pomegranates (they’re yellow) and green oranges (they are dark green even when ripe). I ask them the price and they say something in Vietnamese. I obviously don’t understand so I pick up one or two that I want and hold out a bill. They shake their heads and pull out an old fashioned scale. They hold the scale by the chain, put the fruit in a tiny, thin plastic bag and put it on the plate, and move the weight over to see how much it weighs.

Usually, by now a few ladies have gathered around watching and hoping I’ll also buy what they are selling, and one will tell me a number in English. I have no idea if it’s a good price or not. The fruit is though.

I’m looking forward to being in an apartment with a kitchen and a refrigerator so I can buy more of their wares. The flowers are so beautiful, but the vase in the hotel room only has room for one flower (which they change every other day), and I don’t want to have to buy something and then transport it to Saigon.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 02:46

    The thick-skinned “grapefruit” is called pomelo and is tangy and each droplet of it’s flesh is larger and more membraney than a grapefruit. It’s beautiful in a seafood salad with some chilis and avocado.

  2. Israel Holby permalink
    October 1, 2010 16:02

    Does the “hairy cherry” look like this”
    http://baike.baidu.com/view/33672.htm
    They call it a “red hair egg” here. Reminds me of a lychee.

    The simple pictures with the text are great.

    Does the skin almost fall off the green oranges like an mandarin orange? The season for these, though they get more orange later (here) is starting up. They’ll provide me with about 1000% of my RDA of Vitamin C until December. They cost the equiv of about $.45 and $.60 per kg during season.

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