Monday, May 22, 2006

Breakfast In The Streets Of Saigon

I tend to be an early riser and the rest of my family doesn't. The twelve hour time zone diiference didn't seem to affect that much. Every morning I would wake up about 6 am and take a walk around the city. The morning commute would begin about 7, but before that the breakfast street vendors would set up.

In Saigon, breakfast means small soup stands being set up on the sidewalks. The women in this picture had one of the bigger operations. Breakfast was eaten wherever you wanted or could find a seat, chair or park bench. Pho is the all-purpose meal in Vietnam, serving as a breakfast as well as a lunch or dinner. A propane stove would heat the soup and the herbs that went along it would be set out along the side.

I have no idea if and how the location of the vendors was regulated or decided. There seemed to be a strong element of squatters rights involved, and many of the stand owners probably lived in the building behind their stand. Nevertheless all the food preparation and cooking was done right on the sidewalk. Dirty dishes are placed in a plastic tub of lukewarm soapy water. The overall cleanliness of the set-up discouraged me from ever giving the sidewalks stands a try.

Wherever outdoor dining occured, cheap plastic furniture was never far behind. These brightly colored children-sized stools, tables and chairs would be grouped around for the owners of the satand as well as the patrons. Plastic furniture is very economical and easily replaced if lost or stole. Even large cafes would use plastic lawn chairs for furniture. It tended to give the sidewalks the look of a badly cared for daycare center.

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