Christmas in Saigon

Trip Start Dec 06, 2006
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Trip End Jan 06, 2007


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Monday, December 25, 2006

Flew to Saigon Christmas Eve (many people still call it Saigon, e.g., the people who named the hotel where we ended up staying). Bus from Phnom Penh isn't bad, but we only have a month this time around and the bus ride takes 8 hours each way. We took a taxi from airport to Happy Tours, the place that helped us in summer 2005. Happy Tours is on Bui Vien Street in the Pham Ngo Lao (backpacker) area. We left Leslie in the tour office hanging out on the internet and talking with the pretty women in the office while David and I walked around looking for a place to stay. The Ly Ly was full and we ended up in the Saigon Comfort Hotel, which really is a hotel with all the amenities, like an elevator, hot water, refrigerator, the works - the bidet even has warmish water!

Everything in Saigon is fast - especially the traffic - oh man, the traffic (book says 7 million people here and 4 million motorcycles) - the mind-boggling traffic.

(Don't we ever see sights? Is travel just one market, street scene after scene - and the food, do we ever quit talking about the food? Well, we have seen some sights, but streets, markets, food, and people are the best part for us.)

Went back to the Zoom Café for shrimp with lemon grass, chillies, onions - as good as I remembered. Pineapple shake good, too.

Many, many more prostitutes around this time around (song of the day: Ramones: I Don't Wanna Grow Up). Guys sitting in open-air bars along the street with bored and astonishingly pretty women. Almost all the men drinking Tiger beer and eating peanuts ("little salty pellets of loneliness" - Jack), maybe wondering, is this it? And the answer is, yeah, man, this (whatever this is) is it.

For breakfast Christmas morning went back to the charcoal pork chop place in an alley off Bui Vien. I guess the cops have forced all the charcoal grills off the sidewalks, because where many were before, none are now. But the food is great wherever the chops are cooked - a plate of rice with pork chop and fried egg on top, with a little salad in nuoc mam on the side for 12,000 dong. Woman in the next stand fixed me a café sua da (strong coffee and sweet condensed milk over ice) for 5000 dong. One USD = 16,000 dong. Walking along the street, into a lane, into an alley, deeper, and all of a sudden click deep into Vietnam - people looking at me, dark-eyed, hey white boy, what you doing down here. I'm just trying to make it, man - long gone on down the line circling back and every block is a world all itself.

What a night. The bar across the street was rocking like some kind of Australian winter break and late into the night drunk guys singing Christmas carols and after O Holy Night, they broke into, For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. Leslie woke up in the middle of the night with a deep chill, feeling bad. Took ibuprofen - feeling better in the morning, but dragging.

Leslie had some breakfast and came back to the room to sleep through the morning. She awoke feeling, "I'm fine." Uh-huh. So, anyway we started off walking for Ben Thanh Market. Got some nice silk bags in the tourist area, and in the daily life area, some stainless steel coffee filters for café sua da. Then to the center of the market for an unparalleled food court experience. There are 50-60 stands selling every good thing, and as you walk through, women try very aggressively to guide you to their stand - pushing menus in front of you, calling out their specialties, blocking the way, pulling at your arm. At one stand the woman reached over and plucked the menu out of a seated customers hands! We ended up at exactly the same stand and with the same woman as once before and eating the same thing (bun thit nuong - charcoaled lemon grass pork on noodles and lettuce, cilantro, etc.) + café sua da. Onward to the shake stand for mango shakes. Leslie dragging now, so we head back to the hotel through the park with young lovers on benches, old people, young people, school having a field day with two by two sprints on two sidewalks.

Across the insane traffic with Leslie holding hands with David and me - whatever you do, do not hesitate or change speed or course once your course is chosen. Do not even look at the motorcycles, cars, trucks, bikes bearing down on you - the only way to do this is to put your life in the hands of 300-400 anonymous motorcyclists. Then we're back in the hotel - even in the cool season Saigon is tiring qand exhilarating.

It's good being in Vietnam for Christmas with my family. I wish Leslie felt better, but she's not too bad and if you'll think about it, Saigon is not a bad place to be ill. Tough little customer, trucking feverishly up the street. That's my wife.
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Comments

mdehav0
mdehav0 on

So glad you are in this life
Charles, Leslie, and David,

I hope that Leslie feels very well soon -- I am praying for her quick recovery.

I want to thank you so much for sharing this deep, deep joy with all of us on the other end of your stories. Certainly, we share a common heart of love, God's one true heart. And, through your words, it makes it so easy for us to see who we are in each other, that we truly care for one another, live in and through one another, and share in each others stories, in each other's lives. I am so glad to share this place and time with you, and glad that you are in this life. I am grateful to share in each of these stories.

'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' (Isaiah 9:6).

Merry Christmas,

Mark

marieluce
marieluce on

So it was
I now understand why Cambodia came into my life. I knew there was a good reason. Thank you for connecting the dots. We miss you. Cecile

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