Weekly Travelpic – Coffee Markets in Saigon

Coffee Vendors in Saigon Markets

Coffee sellers in Ho Chi Minh city’s Ben Thanh markets (click for full-size image)

This is inside the Ben Thanh markets, in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, as it was known prior to 1975) – apparently one of the oldest surviving ‘structures’ in Saigon.

Markets in the area have existed for centuries .. although they were  initially closer to the river (which is unsurprising).

However, during the French invasion, the existing markets were burned down allegedly by the Vietnamese soldiers defending the area.

If that’s true, then the attitude attributed to later American invaders – “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” – has apparently been a tradition in Vietnam!

These particular markets have been a central part of Vietnamese life for centuries – even during the ‘command economy’ phase of modern Vietnamese history.

Under the rule of the Vietnamese Communist Party, North Vietnam had a “command economy” (where governments set targets, control distribution of goods and services, and control all commercial activity).

Then, when the communists won the civil war and united the whole country under single rule, they tried to introduce a command economy in the south, too.

But that really only lasted about ten years. By 1986, the ‘Doi Moi’ reforms had been introduced to create what’s now known as Vietnam’s “Socialist Oriented Market Economy” – a mixed economy where the government directs economic development, and still owns a significant number of factories and other means of production.

However, it’s not a socialist economy per se; it is merely meant to point Vietnam to a socialist economy once the country is ready.

The products are from a variety of government and private manufacturers – but the retailers are unashamedly capitalistic.

The markets look, and sound, similar to markets in Bangkok, and Phuket, in Singapore and Hong Kong – indeed, to markets in San Francisco’s Chinatown and Inala in Brisbane.

These particular retailers are selling tea and coffee of various sorts — including the expensive delicacy “Weasel coffee” (coffee beans eaten by – and then pooped out of – civet cats.)

From memory, this shot was taken mid-morning – after the early morning traders had been and gone, but before the bulk of tourists arrived.

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