It's also a shopper's haven, as you can find just about anything you might be looking. When we left the market, we started to walk around, and lo and behold, there was a jewelry store with watches. Though I cannot explain it, I can tell you that Chuck has an insatiable appetite for watches, and if he would wear all those that he purchased in the last thirteen or so years, they would go up his arm and around his neck, all the way down his other arm. But you know what they say about lemons, - and I sure made lemonade that day. I found the daintiest, sweetest pair of silver earrings with posts, and of course, in Saigon, they actually help you try them on, as you can see. We lingered in there for a long time, most likely because they had a fan in the shop.
For about US$10 (or 155,000 dong), we were able to get a 32 inch, red cloth suitcase with wheels which came in very handy. Of course, there is truth to the saying that you get what you pay for, and we only needed this valise to last until we returned to the states with our collection of treasures, so it served the purpose. Naturally, there will be higher quality goods if you need them, but then, don't come for them at Cho Bin Tay. I actually dragged this thing without minding too much, as I relished at the idea of all the things I could now remove from the hotel floor, closet, and plastic bags and just pack away.
Here's an interesting piece of trivia for you. Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street is known as "medicine street" in Saigon's Chinatown. We are not speaking of medicine in Western terms, but rather in Chinese traditional, where exotic scents and plants and barks are sold out of huge burlap sacks to cure whatever ails you. In the previous post on the indoor market, I did show some very exotic and saffron looking pieces of bark which are used for medicinal purposes.
Actually many of the very same mushrooms and dried bananas and other animal parts which are believed to have multi-purpose medicinal effects are found in our own Chinatown in New York. And also in the slightly larger San Francisco Chinatown. Some of those dried banana cakes showed up on our trip to the My Tho Fruit market. I can tell you that these mixtures worked for me when I was suffering with severe knee problems which had me on crutches for several months; the only drawback was the agonizing taste and horrible smell.
With all the activity and going about the business of life and trade, don't expect people to give you smiles and greet you as they might on Hai Ba Trung Street. The Cholonese are very busy people, and especially those that are in the indoor market, as competition is quite stiff.
What is also an interesting mix of old and not so old, are the ancient, crumbling shops on the lower levels and street levels, topped by the pastel colored, gaudy multiple story buildings. Here are a couple of examples:
the pink and yellow just don't make a very attractive combination
but there is always someone working on repairing, painting, patching or fixing
Here you get a better sense of the juxtaposition of the
shops and the colorful apartments that top them
This is a very typical dwelling: a balcony, laundry lines and always potted plants
Essential to Chinese life and tradition are the festivals and costumes which accompany them. Especially around Tet, the New Year Celebration, dressing up as a dragon is de rigueur. You will find all that is necessary here for the party.
Cholon is also home to several pagodas and temples which we did not have time to visit, but will look up on our next trip. And as will all Chinatowns, anywhere in the world, food is something to be samples and savored. As always, sport good walking shoes and stay hydrated.