It’s been raining here the last two mornings. Normally, mornings are clear and the rain comes later. But these two mornings have highlighted a Saigon phenomenon. Rain or shine, morning in Saigon has a unique feature; it’s the breakfast cart brigade. These are the portable aluminum and glass carts on wheels that set up on sidewalks all over town. There must be 10 between my apartment and my office, a mere two and a half blocks.
The parade starts about 3 or 4am when they leave their overnight storage spots. Most of the carts are pushed by the women who operate them. It looks especially dreary in the rain, but they do it wet or dry. Once they get their spot the carts remain stationary for a few hours. Some of them make morning deliveries. Some of the goods are carried on foot (like those carried by this woman), but most of the activity involves rolling stock.
I don’t know where they keep the carts when they’re not in use. It’s got to be somewhere in their very small living spaces, but it’s hard to imagine. Some are very large. Some are small. Some have fire in the hole. You see the pots hanging from a passenger’s shoulder bar on a motorbike spitting flames and sparks. Some are shiny bright, some are dented and creased from long wear. The vendors themselves often sit on the sidewalk beside the cart waiting for customers. Some sell fresh fruit. Some sell banh mi, the Vietnamese baguette sandwiches. Some sell soft drinks. Some sell pho or noodles. Some sell things that can’t be described.