With an emphatic shake of the head, I was denied my soup.
“Không. Khôngkhôngkhôngkhông. Khôooooooong!”
(“No. Nonononononoono. Nooooooo”)
Not only was I given a derisive, decisive shake of the head, but as soon as the soup stall owner dumped his dirty dishes into a bucket, he lifted his hand to give me a vague version of the royal wave, a very Vietnamese signal that means anything and everything. It could mean “I don’t know what you are asking”. It could mean “we don’t have what you want”. It could mean “I do not know how to give you directions so I’m just going to shake my hand at you”.
And in this case, it meant “listen crazy lady, I am not going to feed you breakfast.”
I did not expect to find myself in the middle of a soup stand-off at dawn. Bleary-eyed, without coffee and wholeheartedly confused about why I was being denied a meal, I stood in the middle of the market and blinked in the morning sun. Up early to see the floating markets of Cai Rang, I was now wandering the wet market on land, caught in a vortex of sensory overload, of fruit and vegetables and thrashing fish in shallow bowls of water. The best way to navigate the dawn markets is to arrive already hungry, letting your nose lead you to your first snack of the day. In my case, a steaming pot of bun rieu soup.
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