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Project 2 – Ho Chi Minh City

By Paul Padegimas


Vietnam was a very beautiful, incredible, and especially interesting place to visit.  Being a communist country, at least in name, there were certainly strict limits placed on the ability of the country to truly cater to more transnational influences.  The vernacular aspects of the culture are obviously apparent throughout the city:  The vendors walking around the streets with boards over their backs, baskets or boxes attached to each end and selling the goods in the baskets, was a sign of the local culture.  In Ben Tanh market, the booths selling live and otherwise fresh fish, every single piece of a pig imaginable, and the fresh vegetables all showed how the locals lived.  The ever present motorbike carrying everything imaginable, from people to food to scaffolding to entire dining room sets. 

        The fact that anything but Vietnamese food was somewhat difficult to find was another defining aspect of the city.  It is a given that downtown, in the small area of tall buildings, there were international interests represented such as Citibank, HSBC, Sheraton, The Renaissance, among others. However, if one looked closely into the other parts of the city it is obvious that transnationality has permeated all aspects of the culture.  The Ben Tanh market, with its vernacular outward appearance, truly is an international experience.  Given that there are parts of the market that specialize in local products, food, and groceries, much of the market is focused on the international traveler with international products.  This aspect of the market relates very significantly to Elizabeth Vann’s article “The Limits of Authenticity in Vietnamese Markets.”  The sale of DVDs, mostly of American movies, is one sign.  Another is the bootleg goods that are for sale absolutely everywhere throughout the market, from fake Rolexes to fake Northface backpacks, to all kinds of clothing.  These all were international brands, focused on attracting the international customer to come and visit and spend money to support the local economy.  A blending of both the vernacular and transnational certainly occurred in Ben Tanh, in a most interesting manner.


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