Street food shoulder pole on Saigon streets

Locals or foreigners? You’ve been living in Saigon for a long time or just come here? Have you ever spent a full day to get around Saigon? Walking along the streets in the sun and stop at a cafe because it rains suddenly, it’s an interesting experience.

Starting from Tao Dan park, we drove along Truong Dinh street to Vo Van Tan crossroads, then turned into Turtle Lake. Afterwards, we took around Cong Xa Paris Square and went to Independence Palace…There we could see what’s it like living in Saigon. You could find what a beautiful “Saigon on shoulder poles”.

Street food shoulder pole

A foreign visitor took photos at a street food shoulder pole

It’s a small piece of the colorful Saigon paintings. It isn’t the modern or luxury pieces but the quiet and particular part. That’s the normal lifestyle inside the city.

Street food shoulder pole is familiar with Saigon people throughout many years. Nowadays it has become a special thing that makes travelers curious. In a small area of District 1 and District 3, we could count more than 100 vendors who earned money using shoulder poles. A shoulder pole, also called a carrying pole, is a yoke of wood or bamboo, used by people to carry a load. The vendors put their goods in two baskets from each end of the yoke.

Turned into Pham Ngoc Thach street, we met a young woman from South Vietnam with her shoulder pole. The baskets were covered by plastic wrap carefully to protect the foods from the street dust. In a tight space of one basket, she could mix the ingredients and baked the cake on a small charcoal oven which defended by a carton. The ready cakes were put in another basket.

The unknown woman has wakened up early in the morning in her house in a small alley of District 10, prepared everything and brought her “bakery” to a familiar place to start a new hard working day.

At the park on Le Duan street, there was a shoulder pole vendor who sold Yeung Chow fried rice. Her street food shoulder pole was put on the pavement and the customer eat the dish right on the dish. After a short time, she brought the pole to another crowded place to find customers.

At Bach Dang park, where many travelers stopped for relaxing and sampling Saigon street food, there were lots of shoulder pole vendors. Old and young vendors carried the poles with street foods around the park so that the buyers could easily pick the food. Every day the feet of a shoulder pole vendor has walked countless kilometers of Saigon streets.

On Le Loi’s street pavement there were many shoulder pole vendors. They sold ancient coins, firelighters, T-shirts and cap printed flags of Vietnam. And there was a man sitting at a corner of Ben Thanh market and sculpting on lighters, pens and other things that travelers bought right on Le Loi street.

Mrs. Tin – 67 years old from North Vietnam told us that she had been used shoulder pole to earn money for 8 years around Le Loi street. In a flower loose-fitting blouse (ao ba ba), this old woman baked a kind of Vietnamese cake that attracted many travelers. Next to her was a fruit shoulder pole of a young woman who is looking over the streets.

In the morning or evening, on a rainy or sunny day, Saigon streets are marked by shoulder poles of people from different regions of the country, has become a unique part of Saigon. It has been said that it isn’t hard to live in Saigon if you work hard. With the carrying pole on shoulders, the vendor has turned it into a “store”. The reason is very simple, they haven’t enough money to open a real store. Every day these women continue their journey through Saigon streets under the sun and the rain, sell cheap things or street foods to earn money and feed their children.

American writer E.Shillue wrote: “A vendor carries on her shoulder the most romantic thing in the East – a shoulder pole”. (quoted from Country, published by University of Massachusetts Press in 1997). In the subconscious mind of the Vietnamese people, the image of the shoulder pole evokes the silent suffering, courage, tolerance, and sacrifice of the wives and mothers in Vietnam. It’s an image etched in the memories of many people and a symbol of cultural identity which is iconic among foreigners.

Would you like to enjoy Saigon street food at shoulder poles? Our guide of Scooter Saigon Tour is pleased to take you there. Join our motorbike tour in Ho Chi Minh City to immerse yourself into the city life, enjoy all the exotic foods with your tour guides as friends.

Ho Chi Minh Sightseeing & Food Tour by Motorbike


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