The Big Ben Tanh Market
I’ve bartered before, but never to the extent of an entire grocery list. Today, we went to Ben Tanh market where I discovered the people of Vietnam are so much difference when it comes to shopping. It was endless rows of beautiful goods (and many counterfeit items as well). The spirit was alive, but very tense as I passed each place, hearing each vendor call out “Hey miss!” desperate for their lucky first sale of the day. What I didn’t realize is that bartering in Vietnam takes a major role in the economy because of how the system works; the more local you are, the less you pay. As for tourists, vendors set souvenirs and other items at extremely high prices and by the time one is finished bartering, they’re still overpaying. I personally find this acceptable, because people willing to negotiate more show that they know more about Vietnamese bartering culture and the value of dong in other countries makes all westerners rich. It’s almost as if the more you educate yourself and become a local, the less you owe.
My new friend Mia is the reason why I am not leaving Vietnam empty-handed. While each vendor would hold up fingers and type numbers into calculators, none of them seem to have value except for the ones Mia said were okay. I got a set of keychains reduced from 350 thousand dong to 50 thousand, and a blue silk shirt for 285 thousand after a woman was too impatient to wait for me to find the 300 thousand I agreed on paying. I almost feel bad for vendors because they’re either trying to overcharge or desperate for people to buy their items. Retail jobs in the United States seems a much less intense, and usually are part time of short careers.
Although buying at the market was a cool experience, I would detest shopping like that in America. While supermarkets and department stores are infinitely more expensive, they provide a sort of convenience that cannot be replicated. Unfortunately, this means that the rich, poor, Americans and non-Americans alike are paying different prices for items and it seems unfair to the poor.
The Theory of Bhuddism – Chùa Phước Hải visit
As with any nation, religion plays an important part in Vietnamese history and culture. There are 54 ethnic groups in the country, so it makes sense that there is such religious diversity. For example, a king had a son who was educated in the West so he spread Catholicism to the country. More rare religions, such as the coconut religion attract tourists from all over the world, bringing in revenue. In addition to impacting the economy, the diversity in religion also encourages the practice of harmony. Over 75% of the nation practice Tam Giao, a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. They encourage religious freedom and seem to embrace religion even more than the U.S.
Today we entered the Jade Emperor Pagoda, built by the Chinese in 1909. I have been to many churches growing up, but never to a place of worship so colorful as well. There were gorgeous desserts and sweet-smelling incense throughout the temple for sacrifice and the people there seemed to be from all backgrounds and age groups as well (especially tourists).
The Vietnam/American War – Remnants Museum
I believe that the War Remnants Museum existence is necessary for telling the story of the Vietnam/American War. What I witnessed today was another viewpoint of the same story. In my opinion, any side in war is in the wrong. Because I have learned nothing but American history all of my life, I did not expect to witness such graphic content proving the United States to be so cruel. While this made me disappointed in my own country, I also recognize much content that manipulated the story of independence from the North into independence from America. While the people of South Vietnam acknowledge many of the wrongdoings of the North, they aren’t mentioned in the museum in an unfair fashion. While overwhelming in every aspect, the stories told by the exhibits in the museum say what the government of Vietnam wants and similar to the American government, it is selective parts of an atrocious whole that thankfully is in the past.