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First impressions of BinhTay Market, with its multi – tiered, mustard – coloured roofs stalked by serpentine dragon, are of a huge temple complex. Once inside, however, it quickly becomes obvious that only mammon is deified here. If any one place epitomizes Cho Lon’s vibrant commercialism, it’s Binh Tay, its well- regimented corridors abuzz with stalls offering products of all kinds, from dried fish, pickled vegetables and chili paste to pottery piled up to the rafters, and the colorful bonnets that Vietnamese women so favour. Beyond Binh Tay’south side, stalls provide cheap snacks for shoppers and traders.

A few steps north of the market lies Tran Chanh Ciheu, a street clogged by a poultry market full of chickens, geese and ducks tied together in bundles. Cereals and pulses are the specialty at the street’s eats end, with weighty sacks of rice, lentils and beans forming a sort of obstacle course for the cyclo that try to negotiate the narrow strip of roadway still visible.

The slender spire of Cha Tam Church peers down from above the eastern end of cramped Tran Chanh Chieu, but you’ll have to walk round to Tran Hung Dao to find the entrance. IT was in this unprepossessing little church, with its Oriental outer gate and cheery out of the Gia Long Palace. Early the next morning, Diem phoned the leader of the coup and surrendered. An M- 13 armored car duly picked then up, but they were shot dead by ARVN soldiers before the vehicle reached central Saigon.

With clearance from the janitor (who’s usually somewhere around hoping for a tip) you can clamber up into the belfry and under the bells, Quasimodo – style to join the statue od St Francis Xavier for the fine views he enjoys of Cho Lon’s. The janitor can also point out the pew where Diem and his brother sat praying as they awaited their fate.

 

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