Focusing on Ben Thanh Market

September 20, 2013 12 Comments »

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!

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