Market Forces

I am a devotee of the Central Market in my home city of Adelaide, and I can't resist the colour, the sounds, the smells and the movement of a real, well-worn, hard-working market, and markets like that don't come any better than in Vietnam.

The Xom Moi Market (pronounced like "Sa-Moy") is one of three such markets in Nha Trang. It is overcome with a cacophony of human voices, two-stroke engines and the clatter of tools, implements and utensils. It groans under the crush of harvests from land and sea that exude dazzling bursts of intense colours and aromas that tease the senses and offer a tantalising promise of tastes and flavours that would match – perhaps surpass – their visual temptations. Sometimes, I would spy a random "still life" of fish or fruits arranged on a tray of woven cane, seemingly waiting for an artist to stumble across it and immortalise it on paper or canvas. One could not plan such a spectacle.

The whole sound, light and colour performance unfolds under a rich, dense patina of time and memory that has been laid down here by the millions of anonymous people who have plied their trades and hawked their wares in this place over countless decades.

Here, there is no time for the planned photo composition or careful study: you grab what you can with your lens and you move on. The flow of people and activity and of a myriad little exchanges, stops for no-one and for nothing.

Occasionally, I saw an all too rare and fleeting moment of respite: a vendor stopping to catch a breath, frozen in a bent pose, pensively removed from the raging activity around him, another eating from a steaming bowl of noodles scented with amazing Vietnamese herbs, and another, still, who has sold her wares and lies sleeping on her cleaned little vendor's perch.

That night, at the home of new acquaintances, I shared in a meal that was prepared from the bounty that surrounded us earlier in the Xom Moi Market.

Xom  Moi Market, Nha Trang

Still life with red fish
Muc – cuttlefish

"Can I please have…"

Hand-peeled pineapples 

Fresh greens

Time for a bite to eat



Xom Moi Market

Xom Moi Market, Nha Trang

Intense colours, intense flavours

There is colour in the most utilitarian of things


Royal Retreat – The Bao Dai Villa

Somewhere in the southern reaches of Nha Trang, on a beautiful hilltop promontory with a marvellous view of the bay, is the Bao Dai Villa. This summer residence was built for the Emperor Bao Dai (the last emperor of Vietnam). Here, he took in the view and the sea air, but still kept in touch with his officials. He was, in reality, a puppet for the colonial French administration and, for a time, of the Japanese occupiers during the Second World War. He was ousted during the political turmoils of the mid-1950s, and he went to France, where he lived out his remaining years in rather great comfort, splitting his time between Paris and Monaco, where he kept a large private yacht in Monte Carlo. He died in Paris in August, 1997. 

The royal villa has been through a number of iterations since it was built, having fulfilled a scientific function under the French at one stage, but is now a museum, laid out again as it would have been when the emperor was in residence. There are hotel villas around the complex, with beaches metes away and a berth for cruise ships, while a couple of hundred metes off shore the cable car that traverses the bay and drops in to Vinpearl resort can be seen gliding its way above the water. 

- Posted from my iPad

Location:Nha Trang