Friday, 3 February 2012

Image - The Vietnamese Marketplace

For my module Creative Voice II we had to write a passage all about image, so describing somewhere, preferably using all five of the senses. I chose to write mine based on my time in a Vietnamese marketplace as I remember the hideous smell so well. Only in real life it didn't have such a pleasant ending as I suffered from heat stroke and fainted. Enjoy.


I already knew after five seconds that I did not want to stay here long. It was dark, gloomy and incredibly stuffy. I had always been under the assumption that in hot places it was always cooler indoors, but not here. There may not have been any blistering sunshine but there was still a lot of heat. The heat of hundreds of people crowded under one roof, and although the covered marketplace was huge with a high roof, it still wasn’t enough for this many people. As soon as I stepped in through the open archway I was surrounded by people. Some of the people were tourists like me, some were the locals just looking for a bargain, but most of the people were stall owners, and they were the worst. Within seconds a scrawny, stringy old woman grabbed my arm, her hands were as rough as leather and surprisingly strong for such a feeble looking woman. ‘You want t-shirt. You buy. Good price.’ she yelled at me over the noise of the marketplace. She then tried to drag me to her stall. Luckily, I broke free before she could force me to buy any of her tacky goods.

Looking around me, however, I realised that the whole marketplace was selling tacky goods. One stall was selling jade Buddhas that had limbs missing, another sold wooden bead necklaces that would snap as soon as you wore them, and one sold hundreds of pairs of chopsticks that were likely to splinter in your mouth. I had been standing looking at these cheap items for too long, the stall owners had seen me. All at once they started to come towards me. One arm out to grab me while the other ready to shove a Buddha, or necklace, or a pair of chopsticks in my face. I stared in horror as this mob of Vietnamese marketplace zombies lunged at me ready to claim me as their customer. Quickly, before any of them could catch me I ran off in the other direction pushing through all the crowds, away from the stall owners but also away from my family.

I took a left, then a right, then another left before I realised I was totally lost and alone. The marketplace was full of thousands of stalls that were arranged just like a maze, one that was impossible to get out of. Each stall looked the same but with slight differences; here were more Buddhas but made of marble, and wooden bead bracelets, and plastic chopsticks. Before any of these stall owners could grab me I walked straight ahead; maybe if I walked in a straight line I would find an exit or at least my family. The further I walked the smellier it got. Obviously there was order to this chaotic place after all and I had unwittingly wandered into the food section. It stank of sweaty people, foreign spices, and worst of all: dead fish. And to top it off the heat of the marketplace made every smell more pungent and deadly.  Now I wished I was seeing Buddhas again as hanging fish guts and amputated chicken claws were a lot worse. All different types of seafood were laid across the stall, cut open spread out for all to see; never before had I seen an octopus’s brain, and I didn’t want to again, either. Not only could I smell every little whiff of dead animal, I could taste it, too. With each breath the sour tang of decomposing fish spread over my tongue and throat. My stomach heaved, my throat burned, and my nose stung. I pulled my top over my nose and mouth as I decided on which way to go now. When I saw the people lay out more fish, including a crab at least two foot long, and start sharpening their knives I didn’t stop to think, I just ran, shoving people aside as I went.

By a stroke of luck, I bumped into my Dad again, haggling over an ornamental fan, right next to an open archway. I didn’t stop to talk long be I legged it out of that hellish marketplace into the bright fresh air of safety.     

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