Featured, Photo of the Week, Vietnam

Focusing on Ben Thanh Market

12 Comments 20 September 2013

How do you get people to stop bugging you to buy things in the busiest tourist spot in Saigon? You baffle them with technology.

Ben Thanh Market is notoriously claustrophobic and aggressive. In fact – I have no idea why anyone would want to go there to shop. Yet somehow I found myself there walking up and down the narrow little aisles with fabric, shoes, and purses stacked 12 feet high being prodded and persuaded by the local vendors.

“Miss, Miss, you buy from me.”
“T-shirt? T-shirt”
“What you want?”
“Special price for you.”

Even when I lived in Saigon I avoided this place in lieu of other more pleasant and local markets. Ben Thanh Market is sort of like the Times Square of Saigon. Locals don’t go there, only tourists are nuts enough to go brave those aisles and aisles of products.

As Evie and I walked up and down the aisles looking for souvenirs, I just put my well used blinders on and walked down the aisle as if I heard nothing. Yet in my head I was absolutely baffled by these aggressive hands on tactics. Evie was looking for souvenirs for friends and family, so I was patient and understanding as I knew that this was just a process we had to go through.

However then I remembered it – my secret weapon. My Lytro camera.

My friends at Insure My Trip sent their Lytro camera with me to Vietnam so I dug it out of my well-protected backpack and started taking some shots. The Lytro is a cool new camera that creates a ‘living picture’ in which you can change the focus after the shot is taken. Lytro is the first consumer camera that records the entire light field instead of a 2D image. And that changes everything. The technology involved inside this little camera is pretty remarkable – and I had used it before in Turkey and had learned that the Lytro really excels at taking close up depth of field shots – the closer the better. Markets are a great place to get these types of shots as there are always so many different details and layers in a market.

lytro photos

Using the Lytro is quite a spectacle.

All of a sudden the prodding stopped and changed to different questions.

“Is that a video camera?”
“Where did you get that?”
“What is that?
“How much did it cost?”
“Take my picture!”

Now I was having fun. I thought about how the vendors in the market must be so sick of the day to day same view of tourists – and they probably craved something different.
Here were a few of my photos I shot in the market while Evie did her souvenir shopping.  Be sure to click on the image and you can change the focus of the picture yourself – after all the Lytro motto is Shoot Now, Focus … Whenever:

Besides the Lytro camera, the is one other great thing about the market – the back section of food vendors! My favorite was the che vendors towards the back of the market. We stopped at a che vendor for a sweet drink and I had a che with sticky rice filled with mung bean – it was practically orgasmic. Che is a sweet dessert soup served in a glass over ice and eaten with a spoon. For che – I would brave my way into Ben Thanh Market any day…I might even give my niece up for adoption for that che. Luckily it didn’t come to that though.

che vietnam

Che with lotus seeds

You can see all of the Lytro photos I took in Vietnam here

Thanks to Insure My Trip, I’ll be traveling with the Lytro through the end of the year – so watch for more living pictures to come!

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Yum! I wish that I could try a che lol! Sounds amazing! Thank you for he run down on both the market and the fabulous Lytro as well! I am amazed!

  2. Nice!
    I’ve found shopping in Viet Nam to be very taxing (the shouts of “you buy, you buy” and the vice grip on your arm get tiring, quickly). Nice way to make the experience fun!

    I’ve been wondering about the Lytro camera too – so glad to hear about how it worked in real life ! Cool shots too.

    Many thanks

  3. Diana says:

    I did a similar thing in a market in Pristina, Kosovo. Filming around the market stopped vendors from pressuring me and instead I got lots of “take my picture!” with smiles. It’s good to go to a busy market with a purpose either than to just buy and I do think the vendors treat you differently.

  4. Charu says:

    Would love to try that Che…lovely shot!

  5. This looks like such a fun camera! And you’re right… sometimes distracting locals with something a little different is the best way to spice up a conversation/experience.

  6. Charlie says:

    Mmmm.. Che sounds delicious! I feel one of the best ways to spend time in a market is taking photos (and trying free samples if you’re lucky!), so many colours and sights! I’d never heard of the Lytro camera, sounds pretty interesting.

  7. Kristin says:

    I think I’m hooked on the Lytro just be seeing this. I haven’t even touched one yet. Looks like fun – and yes, a good diversion for the market situation.

  8. Thanks for introducing me to the Ben Thanh Market and the Lytro camera. Both look cool.

  9. Nice shots! The Bazar just looks like on ein Karachi, Pakistan, except that the goods are different. The local’s Bazar in Bali however was much dirtier!

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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