Two phrases I never thought I would hear when I woke up this morning…or forever for that matter: “Look, there are rats for sale for food,” and “there’s unexploded land mines right there.”
I have learned to expect the unexpected when I travel. Delays in flights and changes in plans are common. Misunderstandings and trying new things not knowing the outcome are common. But, every now and then something throws me for a loop. Way in the countryside outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam I pass street vendors selling rats, snakes and chickens for food. The car was driving too fast to really get a mental grasp on it, but my guide was quick to point out that these weren’t just any rats…these were the rice rats out of the rice paddies…the BIG ones. I believe he called them Conznhum.
Shortly after my rat run-in, was the second most unusual moment of the day. I went to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The small trails that are well-suited for tourists are actually surrounded by lush jungle…and apparently unexploded land mines. It is an interesting visit for anyone visiting Vietnam. It definitely gives me pause about this difficult time in history, but offers a lot of insight into the war.
Back at the bustling Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh, I was on sensory overload. It is kind of like a kid at Halloween with too much candy. Where do you start? The pungent smell of dried fish made even stronger by the stagnant hot air is overwhelming, and the crowded vendor stalls are a bonanza with vendors eager to show you their goods. I am told that the stalls in this market are the most expensive to rent in the world costing about 1 million of $50 USD.
Since I love to engage with the locals, I shared a perfect moment with a man named Tam who had beautiful items from ceramic teapots to water buffalo carved decorations. I found what I thought was a teapot. It was beautifully carved with ancient Vietnamese history icons. Turns out, Tam tells me it is actually a water pipe. He tells me that if you place opium in it and smoke it you will see Buddha AND Jesus. While I did not actually try it out–I had fun pretending. Markets are truly one of my favorite stops in any city I visit.