The Marketplace in Thuong Duc was like a maze of organized chaos. The vendors were almost all middle-aged women who were highly competitive. Rice, the main commodity, was displayed in large tightly-woven baskets. “Shoulder poles” were used to transport rice and other products; they were traditionally made of bamboo. With an equally balanced basket at each end of their pole, these women carried heavy loads from the fields.
Trinh called these women, “shoulder pole vendors” who carried the rice directly from the harvested paddy to market. After selling their product, they would buy or trade for other needed goods. It was a barter system where supply and demand was the driving force of every transaction . . . Economics 101 in action.
We visited the market in small groups and did our best to interact with the people. The haggling was intense, and there were a lot of hand gestures. At times it seemed like a fight would break out . . . then there was an agreement, and everyone was satisfied.
We were treated to some fresh papaya by one vendor who served little skinless wedges of the soft fruit. I managed to trade a C-ration pack of Winstons (four cigarettes) for a whole papaya picked by Trinh as the freshest, by smelling the skin.
Captain Cavagnol acquired a large piece of roasted pigskin (pork rind). He planned to use it for dipping into a can of C-ration cheese spread.
We thanked Trinh for the guided tour of the market and headed back to the Kilo compound with our pickings. It was a fun cultural experience for everyone involved.