A couple of days before I hit Europe I spent a night in Cholon, otherwise known as Chinatown. First, a nibble at Phung Vy restaurant, then a trip to the night fish market on the other side of the Saigon river. This was my first visit and I hope not my last. I was thoroughly blown away. This gargantuan, wet, wholesale heap of fish and chaos really has to be seen to be believed.
It’s not as organised as say, Tokyo’s Tsukiji, or Seoul’s Noryangjin. It’s very Vietnamese i.e. a complete, total and utter mess that in spite of itself manages to function. It opens around 11pm and shuts firmly at 3am. I’m reliably told that every single sprat, skate, shrimp and squid is sold on the night, every night. From the (casual) looks of things we must be talking hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars of fish on the move every single night through this market.
Ice is shaved on machines outside the main entrance (see the film) to help preserve the fish. This is clearly a working market (see another film). You’ll be elbowed, pushed, shouted at, threatened and told to fuck off in no uncertain terms. It’s definitively not tourist friendly, nor for the faint hearted, claustrophobic and/or the casual ‘couple of cod fillets ‘n’ a bag of cockles to go, please’ buyer. As far as I can tell, fish is only sold in bulk for restaurants and businesses.
Big up to my mate Ben, a globe trotting bat conservationist, for agreeing to tag along. Cheers Brett for suggesting I bother in the first place. Ditto the chefs at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza. Market address to follow, meanwhile check out the snaps.