The thronging Friday night crowds on Le Lai had their collective heads turned toward the park on October 22.
A large, wooden windmill towered high above a cartoonish market hocking Dutch products. Traditional tunes blared over the loudspeakers competing with the everyday hum of Ben Thanh Market's whirring traffic circle.
Twelve Dutch-styled stalls have been erected to give Saigon a taste of herring, cheese, and wooden shoe making.
Crowds of friends and high-heeled girls strolled, giggling and googley-eyed, through various dioramas. They snapped pictures in front of a cutout of the Netherlands' World Cup Team or popped their mugs into the face holes of large Imperial court figures.
Glass blowing demonstrations and traditional Dutch costume shows are also being presented at the event.
"This event not only promotes food and culture but business as well," said Mr. Christian E.F Dutilh, chief representative from Global Factories, a Dutch company with an office in HCMC. "Besides introducing customs and food it introduces Dutch companies to Vietnam."
The odd scene was the work of the Dutch Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. "Holland Village," as the model market is known, will continue until the end of the month at September 23 Park. Admission and treats are free.
During the first night of the festival, thousands of visitors had turned out to witness the spectacle. Young couples sat cuddled up on parked motorbikes soaking up the vibe. Crowds of friends ambled among the carnival-like setup. Parents hauled kids with beaming smiles through the masses for a slice of free gouda.
"It's nice to see thousands of Vietnamese enjoying traditional houses and Dutch food," said Mr. Michael Duijff, consul of Consulate-General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. "This event brings good contacts with the Vietnamese community and government. And it is a nice way for Dutch companies to get attention."
Thanh Nien Weekly spoke with some visitors who were busy trying free Dutch cheese about the event.
"I had only ever seen these things (windmills, Dutch art, handicrafts and products) in newspapers and books. Now I can see them in front of me. Very interesting, exotic and delicious," said Nguyen Que Chan, a 25-yearold girl who attended the event with a friend.
Nguyen Phuong Khanh, who squeezed into a narrow parking place and braved the bustling crowds to check out what all the fuss was about, said, "I was impressed by the windmill at first sight," Khanh said. "In HCMC, there are so many fairs and exhibitions but not many catch the eye and introduce products as efficiently as this."
Nguyen Phuoc Huy, a student from the University of Economics said, "I expected to see models of Holland's canal system and other modern cultural aspects. To me, culture is not only the past but also the present."