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Exploring a Random Market in Ho Chi Minh

Market in Ho Chi Minh, VietnamIt’s amazing how vibrant and colourful the markets are here.

Market in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

I stumbled across this one while I was walking around the city; unlike the Ben Thanh market, which felt quite touristy, this one was clearly just a local market.

Market in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

There’s something very entrancing about wandering around a market like this and just taking in all of the sights (and sounds, and smells).

Market in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

There was a vendor selling a tropical-looking fruit (I looked it up, and I’m pretty sure it’s jackfruit). I figured I’d give it a shot.

Market in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

I wasn’t crazy about it. It had a mildly farty flavour that reminded me of a much, much less intense version of durian (durian, for the unaware, is a notoriously stinky tropical fruit that tastes like literal garbage. Not only is it the worst fruit I’ve ever had, it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten).

Market in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Thankfully it wasn’t quite as foul as durian — I was actually able to eat most of it — but it’s definitely not something I’d want to eat again.

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi MinhThough there are tourist-friendly markets in pretty much every city in the world, the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh is particularly interesting.

It’s one of those places where they sell everything under the sun — from knockoff watches and knick-nacks to produce and prepared meals.

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

I wanted to get something to eat, but I didn’t have anything in mind, so I figured I’d just wander around until I found a crowd.

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

The busiest vendor — by far — was this one, selling a dish called banh beo hue.

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

It’s not like anything I’ve had before, and when I ordered it, I literally had no idea what it was. Was it seafood? Some kind of sausage?  Who knows!

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

It turned out to be slices of a chewy rice cake (it’s really similar in texture to Korean rice cakes) topped with fish sauce, a generous handful of parsley, and some crispy bits of pork crackling for contrast.

It was surprisingly delicious. It was chewy, crunchy, tangy, and addictive. It also cost 20,000 dong, or about $1.10 Canadian for a fairly filling lunch, so like everything else here, it’s delightfully cheap.

A Bustling Market in Kyoto

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, JapanOn the 21st day of every month, the Toji Temple in Kyoto gets transformed into a bustling market — something I had no idea about until the owner of the pug cafe clued me in.  Ah, pug cafe: the gift that keeps on giving.

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, Japan

It’s a pretty typical flea market, filled with all of the useless knick-knacks and quirky junk that you’d expect, but it’s still interesting to wander around, and the location can’t be beat.

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, Japan

There are also intense, claustrophobia-inducing crowds, so it might be a good idea to either go first thing in the morning or later in the day, not smack-dab in the middle of the afternoon like I did.

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, Japan

I was surprised by the amount of food to be had; there was all kinds of street food like takoyaki, okinomiyaki, and yakitori (all of the yakis, basically).

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, Japan

It didn’t occur to me that there’d be so much food there, so I had already eaten lunch.  Like an idiot.

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, Japan

I did, however, partake in one of these cakey, sweet bean-filled things.

Toji Temple Market in Kyoto, Japan

As far as I can tell, these are identical to the ubiquitous fish cakes that you see everywhere in this part of the world, just in a different shape.  It’s hard to go wrong with these things, especially when they’re hot and fresh.

I Want it All

Star Wars Store in Tokyo, JapanThere’s a whole store in Tokyo dedicated to Star Wars stuff, and it’s pretty much the best.

Star Wars Store in Tokyo, Japan

I think it’s just temporary, sadly — a promotion for the newest Star Wars film,  The Last Jedi.

Star Wars Store in Tokyo, Japan

All the more reason to buy everything.  Immediately.

Star Wars Store in Tokyo, Japan

All this stuff?  I want it.

Star Wars Store in Tokyo, Japan

Yeah, that too.

Star Wars Store in Tokyo, Japan

Visiting the Biggest Department Store in the World

Shinsegae Centum City in Busan, South KoreaDid you realize that the biggest department store in the world is in Busan?  No?  Well it is and I went there, because why not?  It’s the biggest in the world.

Shinsegae Centum City in Busan, South Korea

The store in question is the Centum City location of Shinsegae, a Korean department store.  And it is impressively large.  I’m not sure how much of a sense of scale you get from those pictures, but it is an imposingly monolithic structure that was even bigger than I assumed it was going to be.

Cavernous, multi-level department stores are a dime a dozen in this part of the world, so on the inside it doesn’t look all that much bigger than the norm.  But then there’s the certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records which confirms that, at an area of 3.16 million square feet, this is indeed the largest department store in the world.

Shinsegae Centum City in Busan, South Korea

But of course, what really interests me here is the food hall in the lower level (try to act surprised).

Most of the menus at the various vendors here were entirely in Korean with no pictures, so I basically just wandered around until I saw a dish on one of the counters (waiting to be picked up) that looked good, then I pointed to it.

Shinsegae Centum City in Busan, South Korea

Ah, pointing; my old friend.  Here’s a hot tip for you: when you’re traveling and you don’t know the language, pointing is as good as gold.  Just look around for something that looks good, then point.  Of course, if you’re a picky eater or you have food restrictions this could end badly, since you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to eat, but otherwise it works great.

I wound up with bibimbap in a hot stone bowl, which is a Korean rice dish that comes like this:

Shinsegae Centum City in Busan, South Korea

Then you mix it up, and it winds up like this:

Shinsegae Centum City in Busan, South Korea

It’s so great.  There’s a really inviting mix of flavours and textures here, and the piping hot stone bowl crisps up the rice around the edges.  If you’ve never had bibimbap, you need to fix that immediately.  It’s pretty much the opposite of an acquired taste; I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.