It was a typically hot and humid day as we walked down a busy street on our way to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Convoys of bicycles, scooters and motorcycles passed by, blasting us with dust, exhaust smoke and air horns. Some bore so many baskets of goods that they seemed like shops on wheels. One scooter rider startled us as he zoomed past with a freshly slaughtered pig draped across his footrest.

Earlier, in a small open air restaurant, we chose from piles of boiled vegetables, chicken, pork, tofu, fish and . . . fried silkworms. As we walked upstairs to eat, we had to take care not to slip on bones, shells and other refuse people were throwing on the floor while eating. The detritus was then swept aside after customers left.

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