Saturday, 31 May 2014

Hanoi's night market and street walkers

I was looking up a dictionary the other day to see what it said about the term "free-range," as in "free-range chicken" and according to the Collins Cobuild Advanced Learners' Dictionary, the term refers to "a system of keeping animals in which they can move and feed freely on an area of open ground."

In Malaysia, a free-range chicken would thus be the equivalent of the kampong ayam, the often thin and scrawny dressed chicken that we find in the wet markets. The meat is tougher than the ordinary battery chickens but it is so much sweeter.

The Vietnamese call their free-range chickens are "walking chicken." That's what I was told anyway when my family were in Hanoi recently. They also prefer their "walking chicken" any time over the battery ones. It is said that their very popular Phở Gà (chicken noodle soup) is cooked from free-range chicken but very funny, I noticed that their chicken all looked rather fat and plump. Maybe they feed their "walking chickens" better than over here.

But I digress. The reason why I brought up the topic of "walking chicken" is because on the second night of our holiday in Hanoi, after returning from a day trip to the Ninh Bình Province and it being a Saturday night, we decided to visit their weekend night market.

This is just like our own pasar malam. The city authorities would close up the road and allow traders to set up their stalls in the middle of the road. The items sold weren't that much different from what we would find here too: clothing, shoes, handbags, sweets, fresh and dried fruits, decorations, toys, stationery, sundry goods and roadside food.

The night market stretched for about one kilometre or so but we gave up after walking along the Hàng Ngang Street (Hang Ngang Street). All the goods looked more or less the same, and if you see one, chances are that you would have seen them all. And so we turned to go back to our hotel. Tomorrow would yet be another long day for us.

But then I came across this small barrier which had been placed strategically at one of the road junctions. It was to tell people that the road was closed to vehicular traffic and only foot traffic was allowed to enter. This matter-of-fact sign wouldn't even be interesting but for its peculiar use of the English language which struck me as funnily amusing. WALKING STREET, it proclaimed, and at the back of my mind I was thinking: "and the people around us, are we all Street Walkers, then?"

If you don't know what is a street walker, please look up the dictionary.  Get me outa here, fast!

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