Barter and Bargains
Gerry LLoyd, 1968-1969
I spent many an hour exploring the markets of Baria,Vung Tau and also Saigon. I was always amazed at the array of produce which was for sale usually by bartering; from Australian fruit to Japanese electrical devices the street markets had it all; from live animals to oriental medicines the markets had it all.
The aroma was nauseating to say the least but something always drew you to this area of a Vietnamese village.
Security was always a concern in such a congested area and allied servicemen could always be a potential target for a kidnap attempt, especially if alone.
The currency used was either $US or MPC(military payment certificates) but these were a curse for the Vietnamese trader as they were not supposed to deal in them. When the Military Authorities decided to print new notes they could be rich one day and worthless the next.I never mastered hardly a word of Vietnamese but I could tell when they were angry having been caught by a change of currency like this.Most however had their sources of intelligence and would exchange the MPC for $US before hand.
Yes you could get a bargain at the markets but if you ate the food you could get more than that as many a sick serviceman could testify.
Markets were an important part of the rhythm of life in Vietnamese villages in the past and even now, while the country is under a communist regime, I am sure the markets are important to the economy of the village.