It’s 5 am and the blaring music and noise through the loudspeakers wakes me up. I dig my earplugs deeper into my ears and doze off once again. Vietnam wakes up early and the hotel is situated directly opposite the market, so the noise levels vary from a scale of 7 to 10 all day and night long.
We opt out of a $35 tour to the site of the Khmer rouge massacre and decide instead to explore the market and surrounds. There are few places that offer as much variety and interesting subject matter to photograph and it’s not long before we are happily snapping away.
The market is divided into sections. Dried fish of so much variety that I struggle to recognise most of it. The fresh fish is so fresh it is alive and writhing in pots of water which keep getting filled up. As someone buys the fish, they are scaled, cleaned and offered to the buyer. It doesn’t come fresher than that. The fruit and vegetable are deliciously varied and colorful. I can smell the sweetness of the watermelon before I even see it. I want to buy everything.
Then its clothes, pots, plastic, motor mechanics – this is a supermarket deluxe!
The food vendors entice us with freshly cooked food. I buy something deep-fried. It turns out to be deep-fried banana. Neither of us likes cooked banana, but I decide to try one and land up eating both. They are delicious.
The heat and humidity intensifies. I can feel droplets running down my spine. It’s time to cool off and retreat so we find a river facing coffee shop and have some iced coffee as we watch the world according to the Mekong unfold before us. A family walk in the shallows collecting clams from the mud. A young lady cleans and cuts up a chicken, supposedly for dinner a little later. A young couple drive up and down the river casting their fishing net time and again. Transport boats pick up passengers and take then further up or down the river.
Our young waiter is intrigued by our cameras and long lens. I show him what I can see through it and he breaks out into a huge smile. He is fascinated and a little envious. People here love having their photograph taken. Time and again we get asked to take photographs of the young children. When I show them the photo on the screen, they clap and smile and chatter between them sharing the excitement. They ask for nothing in return.
By 1pm it’s time to retreat to the hotel room for a while. It’s too hot to do anything. I sit on the balcony and entertain myself by taking photos of people from the high vantage point. It offers an interesting perspective and opportunity. It’s difficult to get bored when every second presents something new.
A family of 5 making their way on a little scooter. A waiter cycling and carrying a tray with noodle soup on a plate. A young man with a huge ladder strapped to his bike. Without mentioning the old ladies on bicycles, the food vendors pulling their carts around and the thousands of scooters whizzing by.
Tomorrow we catch the boat to Phnom Penh and start our Cambodia adventure. I am a little sad to be leaving Vietnam. It feels like I am just getting to know her and feel comfortable in her company. I am comforted by the thought that I will be back in a few weeks when we make our way to Hanoi from Laos. For now, I look forward to the next installment of this amazing adventure.