I was going to write about toilets today, but I think instead, I will talk of this mornings events.
Today we went to the local supermarket. Most markets are set up in small streets . There is usually one in every neighborhood. Nhatrang at the moment has only one indoor supermarket, and has very limited goods. Some canned and dried goods, a kitchen utensil section, household cleaning and cooking supplies, but very little in the way of meats, vegetables, or fruit. All of those items must be purchased in markets such as you see in the photo’s. Saigon and probably Hanoi are a bit more with the times. In Saigon, we went to a number of supermarkets that rivaled what we have in the west. For sure, they take a different approach to the way they interact with the customer, but It is easy to see why. First of all, labor here is cheap, so why buy a machine to do what 3 or 4 people can do? Sometimes it seems there are more employees in the stores than customers. When you enter the store, you will be checked out by security. Any handbag will be sealed in plastic, or taped shut. You can break the seal when paying for goods. All bags, knapsacks, and any article that could conceal stolen goods must be checked and a tag will be issued to claim on the way out. Once in the store, there is an employee or two in every isle to watch and to offer assistance. If you purchase fruits and vegetables, they will be weighed and priced by the veggie staff before you proceed to the check out. The check out consists of toe people, one to check and ring in the till, another to double check and bag. You must then proceed to security and they will re-check that all purchases were paid for. You pick up your helmets and other items and now are free to leave the store. I guess you cannot knock this system. It employees a lot of people, and there are so many poor people that security is probably needed to guard against petty theft. Come to think of it. This whole seems to thrive on the employee. ( another topic for another time I think )
Back to our local market. It is awash with activity. The market opens at about 5-6am and most people will purchase only the food required for the day as they have no refrigeration. At noon, a trip up the same street looks as if the market never existed. The prices are far below what you would expect. And of course, bartering is expected. If told 20000, offer 15,000, and settle for 17000. It takes a bit of skill to shop like this. Bartering, dodging being splashed or stepping into muddy potholes, and of course, the never ending fending off the odd marriage proposal. I find the interaction with these people a joy. Shopping for basic foods becomes part of a daily adventure. The people laugh and have fun with me. I am sure it is very rare for them to have a western customer.
About the foods:
You can find almost anything you require here, but the choice of cuts are limited. Beef is not common here and the chicken is usually fully grown old birds that are very tough to chew. The pork is excellent as is all of the fish. All of the vegetables are freshly cut from the fields. The fruit still have unwithered leaves attached they are so fresh, and the taste!! Wow!! I never imagined that some fruits and vegetables tasted so good. In the west, most of our produce takes time to make it onto the shelves. Here, it sells fresh daily or goes bad in the heat of the day. I have to admit though, I do miss the ability of going to a large supermarket, buying a large t-bone or tender chicken.
Today we purchased 4 pounds of marlin steak, cooking oil, a duster, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, oranges, bananas, and some other odds and ends. The total cost????? 300000 dong or about 15.00 US.