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There’s much more beneath the pillbox – style clock tower of Ben Thanh Market than just thr\e cattle and seafood pictured on its front wall. The city’s busiest market for almost a century, and known to the French as the Halles Centrales, Ben Thanh’s dense knot of trade has caused it to burst at the seams disgorging stall onto the surrounding pavements. Inside the main body of the market, a tight dried of aisles, demarcated according to produce, teems with shoppers, and if it’s souvenirs you’re after, a reconnaissance here will reveal conical hats, basket ware, bags, shoes, Da Lat coffee and Vietnam T –shirts. All this though, is tame stuff compared with the wet market along the back of the complex, where you’ll find buckets of eels, clutches of live frogs tied together at the legs, heaps of pifs’ears and snouts, and baskets wedged full of hens among other gruesome sights. If you can countenance the thought of eating after seeing – and smelling – these patches of the market, com, pho, and baguette stalls proliferate towards the back of the main hall. In the evening, footstalls specializing in seafood set up along the side of the market, attracting a mixed crowd of locals and tourists.

The aroma of jasmine and incense eplaces the stench of butchery a block northwest of Ben Thanh, at Truong Dinh’s Sri Mariamman Hindu Te,ple.Less engaging than Sri Thendayyutthapani, Sri Mariamman’s imposing wall are sometimes lined with vendords selling oil, incense and jasmine petals. The wall r\are topped by a colorful gopuram, or bank of sculpted gods. Inside, the gods Mariamma, Maduraiveeran and Pechiamman reside stone sanctuaries reminiscent of the Cham towners upcountry, and there are more deities set into the walls around the courtyard .

 

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