Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Humongous Milo Drink @ Siam Carnival Fair in Bangkok [Thailand]

Fun fairs in Singapore concentrated mainly on rides but the Siam Carnival Fair my Thai friend brought me to recently was surrounded by a ton of food stalls!

In addition to the fried silk worms, another stall that attracted my attention was one selling an extremely common beverage that can be found in Singapore too; Milo. 

What caught my eye was their humongous 4-liter option; original price was supposedly 399 baht! Promotional pricing was 299 baht and it came with this exclusive milo ice box, for free! 

Half filled with ice, it was heap after heap of the milo powder before they filled up the ice box with liquid milo, and then with more milo powder at the end; absolutely a mental sugar rush! 

Of course, it was delicious, especially with so much milo powder topping! Those who were taken aback by milo dinosaur would likely have their minds blown away with this ice box filled with milo. Thankfully, there were five of us to finish it up!

I would have loved to keep the ice box but it was a tad too bulky for my luggage. Furthermore, despite the catch to lock up the lid, it wasn't airtight enough although it might still function as a liberal ice box when guests come over to my house. Whatever the case, I passed it to my Thai friend who would have better use for it. 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Chợ Bình Tây - The Market You Should Visit @ Ho Chi Minh City (District 6, Chinatown) in Vietnam

Bangkok has Chatuchak Weekend Market whereas the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)'s equivalence was said to be Ben Thanh Market, which I will vehemently reject! The only good thing about Ben Thanh Market is its location at the tourist-concentrated District One. 

Personally, the Binh Tay Market at District Six (also known as 
HCMC Chinatown) would be a much better candidate. For one, it's bigger at 150 meters by 115 meters and with two floors. Ben Thanh Market was single storey and 100 meters by 133 meters. 

There were also significantly more mobile stores outside which would fall outside the perimeters of Chợ Bình Tây, which would not be counted.  Let me now bring you on a photo journey to this market that was built in the 1930s.

Store layout for Binh Tay Market; do note that this only contained stalls within the main structure of the market. There were extensions to the left and right which you pay a visit as well.

Color categories for your reference although they were not strictly adhered to. 

Dried products like fish maws, sea cucumbers, bird's nests, shark's fins; things that would appeal to my mom given that she knows how to manage such stuff. I only know how to bake, honestly, and I am not that good anyway.

My aim was dried nuts like lotus seeds! A friend got me one pack a few years and they were simply delicious, and as expected, I cleaned up the entire contents within a few days despite trying my best to ration them!

Vietnamese coffee beans for the coffee connoisseurs. Did you know that Vietnam was one of the top producing coffee countries in the world, ranked second after Brazil?! I absolutely adore Vietnamese coffee! 

The traditional Vietnamese attires for kids were too adorable! Pity both Jerald and Jovyn are too old now and my sister had closed her factory. While I love to play with kids, having them as my responsibility would be too heavy for me.

Calendar that appeared to be similar to the Chinese ones (which had lunar month / day) distributed in Singapore. My mom was complaining the other day that companies nowadays don't seem to distribute them freely these days. 

Main entrance with the two staircases for level two.

Memorial shrine in the middle courtyard for this gentleman by the name of "Quách Đàm", who passed away in 1927. He was said to contribute heavily for the construction of Binh Tay Market. Now, the question is whether he lived to see the completion of the market or the market was actually built earlier, before his death.

Architecture of the market was unique in the sense that it incorporated both Western and Eastern elements. As you can be seen from the above photo, the oriental style roof. In the first few photos, I have also captured the Westernized clock tower.

Up on level two. 

Frankly, this was like a non-air-conditioned Platinum Mall, albeit a lot more rundown and selling more than just fashion products. In terms of tourist number, it's lower than Ben Thanh Market although it's good to keep in mind that HCMC wasn't filled with a lot of tourists when I was there.

One of the six other side staircases.

Massive display of shoes, sandals and slippers. 
I didn't bother checking the price.

Thankfully for the lack of customers, it didn't feel warm even though it was super hot outside the building. Guess the high ceiling help to diffuse the heat. The red pipes across were water sprinklers!

View of the road right outside the market's main entrance.

Party supplies; with e-commerce being so common now, I wonder if there would be enough profit for someone to purposely go all the way to HCMC just to buy the products. Maybe it's more for the local market. 

More of the market; inside and outside. Depending on sections, some had many shuttered stalls and I am unsure if they were closed for good or used as storage by other stores.

Toys and snacks for kids! I remember when I was in kindergarten, it's the norm for the birthday boy / girl to bring cake and goodie bags for their classmates. Imagine coming to Binh Tay Market and facing the variety here! 

Hangers for clothes! I have so many, purchased from IKEA; I don't think I would be buying any hangers until the day I die. 

Narrow passage; the placement of products and boxes would have failed the fire inspection check in my company. In fact, it would fail the national fire inspection check as Singapore requires a passage clearance of 1.2 meters.

So many different types of biscuits! 

Literally the second home for some of the store owners. I checked and you guess how early the market open? 3am!! It's the "early morning and late evening" that the small traders would come "to pick and arrange the transportation of goods".

Products for sewing, including those for personal hygiene. 

Bottles of nail polish! As a guy, I have no use for them and hence, don't quite understand the fascination that ladies have towards them. 

Leisure activities by the store operators! 
p.s. smoking is disallowed in the market.

A millinery of hats, including caps and helmets! 
I saw a Balenciaga amidst them; fake?

Plastic baskets; trust me, I would ask for the pricing if there's a nice one that I could purchase for my office pantry. However, whether I would buy or not is a question since my shopping philosophy, when I am travelling, would be to avoid bulky and/or heavy items. 

There were exceptions; like baking equipment that I either couldn't secure in Singapore, or they are way too expensive in our little red dot.  

Fabric face masks; with the pandemic coming to an end, this would likely be remade into something else, or thrown away, contributing once again to the excessive waste encountered in the past few years.

Before the 1990s, it's common for housewives in Singapore to have a sewing machine at home for them to repair and / or even make clothes. Shops selling bundles of fabric, once common, were much rarer now that mass clothes manufacturing has resulted in much cheaper pricing. 

The extended sections on level one of Binh Tay Market.

Dried products again.

Salted fishes exposed to the fumes of the motorcycles nearby. I would have expected swarms of flies congregating on the preserved carcasses but didn't see any. 

Hae Bee, also known as dried shrimps, were typically used in Chinese cooking for that unami taste. Even though they can be found in Singapore, the ones sold here had so many sizes; some of which were not even the teeny weeny dried shrimps I am more accustomed to seeing!

Crackers, dried cuttlefish, nuts etc. I actually enjoy dried cuttlefish a lot but I had the tendency to over-indulge given how addictive they are. To give you an example on how hard it is for me, I ever landed in hospital twice for over-eating cashew nuts.

Extended structure of Binh Tay Market on the left.

Chinese chestnuts; you can actually eat them raw after peeling off the skin. In my recent trip to Bangkok, my mom did warn me not to buy any when I am overseas, given the risk of them being "bleached" for that snow-white color. 

Commercial activities continue for the stalls across the main vicinity of the market. I am just praying that my mom would never ask me to buy salted fish when I am overseas. You never know; she just bought a few kilograms of chai po and salted vegetables from Bangkok last month. 

Even narrower passage at the extended section.

This appeared to be a wet market that had already closed for the day and I counted two people sleeping on the tables, which I presume were clean and dry!

More photos for viewing pleasure.

Some of my friends would actually purchase plates when they travel. Although designs could be nice, my lack of interest in having too many crockeries at home and the potential risk of damage mean I would give them a miss.

Guess what caught my attention? The pigs! Sadly, they were not piggy banks and hence, would enable me to add to my collection. You know what they actually are? Cigarette ashtrays.

Different grades of rice and grain. A lot of foreigners didn't know that while we eat a lot of rice, we are not acceptable to just any brands. In my family, we usually go for the Golden Phoenix brand that offers Thai Hom Mali rice.

The iconic leaf hat (Nón Lá) worn by Vietnamese; this would have been nice as souvenirs for my female friends although on second thought; they would likely throw it aside as the custom in Singapore is to wear cap to shield from the sun.

I decided to buy fried lotus seeds from this stall given its popularity. As usual, always ask to sample so that you can determine if they satisfy your taste buds. If I am not wrong, the lotus seeds were charged at 400,000 Dong a kilogram whereas cheapest at Ben Thanh Market was 450,000 Dong. p.s. you do have more bargaining power if you are buying more than just one or two kilograms.

Walking to the main entrance to wait for a travel companion who finally woke up from his sleep. His routine when travelling is to sleep till he wakes up naturally, goes for his brunch and then meets his peers. 

Visually appealing to see so many goodies in front of me! I would have loved to try every single one of them but I am quite fixated in getting the fried lotus seeds and the dried jackfruit! However, with so many players, I would determine via chemistry, and also the number of customers congregating around the store.

Bringing our friend to explore the inner section of Binh Tay Market as he had never been there. By that time, we were pretty tired but can't make him waste his trip right?! Anyway, this section we had yet to explore.

I believe these would go to those claw machines! It was said that each toy cost dirt cheap when you purchase in bulk and even if you spend S$1 and manage to fish one on your first attempt; the operator would still be earning money!

Honestly, could the customer even hear her?

Random photos once again; most pungent smell came from the products shown in the second picture. They were like pots of sharp smelling sauces made from fish or seafood. In large quantity, they overwhelm although in little portion, their addition could make / break a dish. 

Finally decided to get my dried jackfruit from this store! 

The nice auntie can converse in Teochew and managed to give us a reasonable pricing of 160,000 Dong (about S$9.00) a kilogram for the dried jackfruit. She even had a suggestion when I told her I would need smaller packs, and to be vacuumed sealed!

There's another nearby shop that does vacuuming sealing at 10,000 Dong (about S$0.60) and she even got her colleague to bring me there! She also suggested that 500 grams would be more worth the value as the smallest plastic provided for vacuum sealing was still pretty big.  

Video for your viewing pleasure! 
I need this machine for my mooncakes!

Another specialty in Vietnam would be these pastries filled with durian. I am a person who would only go for durian in its original form but these mooncakes (as they were called) were so delicious, especially when you toast them for a few minutes in the air fryer! p.s. they are not expensive and you can get them in many places at HCMC.


I would definitely be back at Binh Tay Market in my next visit to HCMC. Prices are cheaper than Ben Thanh Market and you also wouldn't get harassed by the store operators. Do note that you don't get much options for touristy trinkets (fridge magnets etc) at Binh Tay Market though. 

57A Tháp Mười, Phường 2, Quận 6, 
Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700900, Vietnam

As above.