Cars and motorbikes zoomed by me in every direction as I stared with my mouth open at the roundabout ahead of me. Several chaotic Saigon streets had converged into this one place, sending the already crazy traffic into a frenzy of horn honking and near misses. Somehow there are no accidents and everyone seems to get through unscathed, but the thought of walking out into this chaos goes against all of my natural instincts.
I instead decide to wander down one of the streets a little where I see a pedestrian crossing. Somehow that makes me feel a little better even though I know that a pedestrian crossing means nothing in Vietnam. Two other foreigners are having their own battle with the traffic, stepping onto the road before changing their minds and retreating back to the safety of the sidewalk. I feel like telling them that the sidewalk isn’t necessarily safe from traffic either, but it looked as though that wasn’t something that they needed to hear.
Just as I was trying to find my own moment for putting my life at risk, I hear a whistle come out of nowhere. My eyes wander past the speeding vehicles to see a random policeman crossing the road with his hand in the air while constantly blowing his whistle. He’s stopping the traffic for us.
Apart from a few daring motorcyclists who ignore the policeman, the cars at least stop long enough for him to wave us across the street to the other side. By the time I look back around the traffic is already back to it’s hectic speed and the policeman has vanished.
I now only have to cross a much quieter street (which would be peak hour traffic in Australia) to get to my destination. I had finally arrived at Ben Thanh Market.
Ben Thanh Market is the main central market in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and it’s a great place to shop for clothes and souvenirs. Like most attractions in Saigon, walking there is always an adventure, but it’s all part of the fun.
Wandering through the crowded isles, I pass stall after stall selling clothes, shoes, belts, hand bags, carvings, vases and all other kinds of knickknacks. One particular isle had me getting pulled into nearly every stall by the vendors, but they are all harmless and can take no for an answer, letting me go with a smile.
I then wander into the bustling and steamy food court where stalls cook up all kinds of delicious and cheap Vietnamese dishes. I’m not hungry but stop at a stall for a much needed ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee).
While looking for a toilet, I find myself wandering through the fresh food part of the market, where stalls selling fresh fruit and veges lead onto the meat area which has a pungent fish smell. I can’t even identify some of the things that I see, but resolve that it might be best that I don’t find out.
I leave the market with my senses on overload, walking down another hectic street and wondering where my feet will take me next in this chaotic city. Where ever it is, there is no chance of it being boring.