Street Carts

You could call it a stoke of good fortune, but after bashing out a piece on how people on Vietnam’s streets were setting up street stalls to get by, I ended up having to become a patron of the streets. It was a case of my host not feeling well enough to take me out and so I needed to look for my own dinner.

I didn’t really want to go to a place where I had to explain a lot of things in a language I clearly don’t speak. However, the first guy I managed to find a guy who was serving what appeared to be an omelet sandwich, that looked quite appealing. So, gave it try and found that it was amazing. So, I had another one. It wasn’t an omelet in that the outer layer was not an egg but a form of rice paper, which is quite common in the local cuisine.

I guess you could say, for want of a business lesson, is that you should always be selling something fairly unique and the product experience should be enjoyable:

Still felt that I needed something else and found another street cart run by a young lady. There must have been something about my looks, which indicated I was a tourist who doesn’t speak Vietnamese and so she showed that she spoke Mandarin. Managed to order from her cart. Had a sandwich and an ice lemon tea. I guess if there’s a business lesson, it should be the ability to learn another language other than your own because you never know who is going to buy from you.

This cart was strategically placed in front of one of the many karaoke bars in the city, which seem to cater to many Korean tourist. The girls from the bar were sitting outside yelling in Korean to any of the Koreans who would be walking by. The Koreans are the second largest investors in Vietnam (funnily enough, after Singapore) and their presence is enough for K-drama to take up a significant amount of airtime and for there to be plenty of Korean restaurants.

There seemed to be a relationship of sorts going on between the cart operator and the staff of the karaoke lounge. The staff turned out to be customers of the cart and you could say that the adage of “location-location-location” even extended to a mobile street cart.

Ended the evening at a bar near the hotel and made friends with a German tourist who had lived in Malaysia for a few years. Its amazing what little treasures you can find when you walk the ground.


Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.




5 Responses to “Street Carts”

  • Uncle Lim:

    In Vietnam I’ve observed personally how the poor survive through hawking street food and souvenirs to tourists.

    I’ve also observed how the authorities adopt a light touch in places where hawking is not permitted and allow the hawkers to simply move away without chasing after them and confiscating their goods.

    This was how the pioneer generation themselves survived in the early years of Singapore history.

    Since hawking is banned in Singapore, the now elderly pioneer generation have no choice but to take up menial and energy sapping jobs like cleaning.

    The PAP regime has thrown some money at the pioneer generation but fundamentally it has failed them.

    In no other country in the world do you see an army of their elderly engaged in backbreaking jobs! Sad.

    (I’ve traveled in Vietnam many times and I’m writing this in Vietnam).

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    Tang Li: Its amazing what little treasures you can find when you walk the ground.
    Yes, fully agreed with Tang Li.

    I had been a volunteer for 7-8 years walking the ground and you see all kind of people.

    The honourable and responsible type versus

    the d**honourable and irresponsible type of people who seeks help.

    No help for the irresponsible and d**honourable citizens. (chi ko pek, gambler etc)

    Wife caught husband cheating with mistress-Chua soon ho (Jackie Chua) who do no give a single cents to the upbringing of his child.

    Vote PAP, majullah PAP, majullah Singapura

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  • I_AMDK_Angmophiles'_favorite:

    Whao! Just back from Hanoi/Danang last week after business meetings with some Vietnamese CEOs. Still can’t forget my hearty hotpot with mountain herbs and foraged mushrooms, the breakfast pho cooked by a beautiful lady on a street corner. I will say great food! Makes me want to go back!

    I spent the bulk of my evenings in Hanoi at the intersection of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien Streets, a busy confluence of foreign tourists and English-speaking Vietnamese known informally as bia hoi corner. Best bia hoi place in Hanoi that serve crisp, cold beer with a clean taste of rice and an almost subliminal whisper of something like hops.

    One odd point; Vietnamese do not refrigerate their beer usually, but rather add ice. My Vietnamese/French girlfriend; a restaurateur there, taught me how to recognize factory ice as opposed to ice from a bar/restaurant’s freezer; factory ice comes in cylinder shapes about 2 inches (5-6 cm round.)

    In DaNang, there’s still a French community with great restaurants. And minutes from DaNang; with incredible beaches, Hoi An. Always head to the south of Hoi An over the new bridge to go swimming on a deserted beach and grab a glass of rhum. No need to get stuck in with all the bus tours unloading around Hanoi after all!

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  • PAP mandate strong:

    @ In no other country in the world do you see an army of their elderly engaged in backbreaking jobs! Sad.

    Sure or not ? Lim san.
    Perhaps You did not look hard enough or know where to look at ?

    Like fans claimed in China nobody sleep in the street.

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  • Observer:

    It is easier to be a patron to cheap food, than be a vendor to poor people.

    There is an ancient Chinese saying that it is hard to make money from poor people. “穷人的钱很难赚。”

    Singapore should take advantage of its zero-kidnapping track record, being surrounded by water on all sides, and an army.

    Singapore should offer boarding-schools for rich-people’s children.

    Singapore-born children can improve future career prospects with connections to rich-people’s children.

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