I think it’s time I told you about my trip to ho chi minh and the mekong delta – the start of the year is always a great time to daydream about holidays and places, and ho chi minh is a great place to be. I visited in late december – yes, I know, a little out-dated but still relevant, nonetheless – and took quite a few photos to share!
I’ll start with something familiar and known to people who have ever been to, or considered traveling to ho chi minh: the central ben thanh market. right in the middle of town, this market operates in a day largely within a huge covered compound, with a smattering of countless shops (most of them are just store fronts with goods piled high and the storeholders sitting on a tiny chair beside) selling anything from clothes, to houseware, to dried goods and fresh fruit. this is, of course, highly tourist-centric, but it doesn’t detract from the charm of the place.
later at night, the covered compound locks up, and the street stalls come out to play. this is even more of a tourist trap than the day market, what with lots of stalls selling cheap accessories and logo-crazy bags and clothes – most of which look like they fell out of the same truck from china.
but what I want to tell you about are the food stalls. you get temporary restaurants by the side of the road, vehicle-mounted stores selling piles of vibrantly-coloured glutinous rice, and banh mi purveyors along the street. the best thing for me though, are the fruit stores. I am a crazy fruit fiend, and I say that without any exaggeration – I go through enough servings a day that my mother worries about my blood sugar – and even though we get a decent range of fruit in singapore, it’s nothing compared to the wonders of ho chi minh.
every night I make my family go to ben thanh so I can bring bags of fruit back to the hotel – you can have your choice of pre-peeled and prepared fruit in styrofoam boxes, or do what I do and buy fruit whole (which I feel is much safer; you can always get utensils at your hotel). what’s good, you ask?
- dragonfruit: this fruit has a red-pink rind and flesh that is either white or pink. both varieties are tasty, although the pink ones are more consistently sweet and therefore more expensive. my favourite way of eating this is to slice it in half and go at the flesh with a spoon. the tiny speckling inside are the seeds, which are reminiscent of poppy seeds in that they don’t really taste like anything, but add a great contrast.
- longans: tiny brown-shelled fruit that deshell to reveal a juicy and almost jelly-like fruit surrounding a large dark seed – the variety sold in ho chi minh are different from the ones we have in singapore in that they have a thinner layer of flesh that is incredibly silky and much sweeter than those we get here.
- green and ripe mangos: I go for the unripe green ones that have a crisp bite like guava, but the ripe ones are very sweet and very good.
if you’re asian, then you’ll find that you’d have already tried most of these fruit already – but you should buy them anyway because they are far superior than what we get here, at prices that are crazily lower. if you’re not asian, or not familiar with tropical fruit, then I suggest buying one of every fruit you see and having a tasting party back in the hotel room – you’ll learn to miss the fruit as I do when you return home.