I arose early and booked out of the strangely posh Hong Thien Loc hotel, because a room the width of the whole of the edifice was a bit of an extravagance, so I bounded out of bed at 8.30 am to search for another room. My first choice, the Bich Duyen, was just around the corner, but they were stocked up with Gypsies of a less technological bent so I eventually ended up at the Phieu An Sang where I get free wifi in my room.
Free wifi meant I had to get on with some work, after which I had to have a nap to get over the stress of it all, so I didn’t get out and about until the afternoon.
So, it’s all about the motorbike around here. If you can imagine that TV clip of soldier ands nipping over a log to devour the rest of the jungle including the cameraman filming it, well imagine those ants as motorbikes and you have Saigon. In rush hour they even pour across pavements whilst cheekily beeping you as if to say ‘get off of my bloody pavement’. It’s the nearest I have come to swinging my expensive camera at a local until I remember that these little people chased of the American combined forces whilst nibbling on bark bugs and leaves.
But let’s not forget the beauty of the place as well. The French apparently built Saigon to be the Paris of the orient, and some of the former glory is still intact even after some of the bitterest fighting during the Vietnam war. I strolled into town past the Notre-Dame cathedral, yup, they have one here too which is a little less glorious than the French one but lovely none the less. Next to that is the central post office, a strangely elegant building in perfect condition where locals order themselves in front of French styled counters asking to have their mail sent off to shacks around the country. I dawdled in the little garden to the side to soak up the peace and quiet in this lovely corner of Saigon. Also on the way I passed the Independence Palace, which looks a bit like a secondary modern school and then dropped down towards the river passing on the way a pub with it’s own brewery that ,makes German pilsner lager (I assume it’s pilsner but have no idea really). I resisted the urge to pop in for a skinful and a lost afternoon as I wanted to get to the river for sunset.
Being a little peckish I stopped in at a roadside stall just outside the Saigon cosmetic surgery clinic for a snack. The little feller above took a shine to me and started to show off by beating his dad up playfully whilst watching me for a reaction. This game was disturbed by a gaggle of schoolgirls joining me to practice their English. They were good company and managed to explain what it was I was eating. I had no idea what to expect as I had assumed it was a stall selling the Viet style Thai salad until I was given a soup. Now I thought I had remembered the Vietnamese they had taught me until I just googled it and could only come up with references to dogs, this was too soupy to be canine so let’s hope pooch lived to bark another day, if it was fido he tasted good with fish sauce.
So, Fonzy and Izzle get more flowers, of which there are an abundance around here. In fact there is an abundance of life full stop. People teem, they eat from what seems like a veritable plump supply of fruits, vegetables and livestock of every kind and they are on the whole a good natured lot. A few of them can be ‘ver helpful’, like when you try to walk anywhere the amount of help they try to transport you with can be more tiring than the walking. Also, after dark, if the kind souls see you trying to get from one end of a street to another without having sex they try to repair the matter. I was most surprised when one elderly (but very well turned out) lady on a bike, with what I had assumed to be her daughter on the back, asked me if I wanted to be more than charming with (I must say beaming) girl. I used my ‘I have wife’ stock reply that is a lot easier than ‘I have an Aussi chick back home that would probably make pate out of my kidneys If I strayed’ because that just sets off a big conversation that starts ‘what, Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath’ or something like it. Anyhow, to be honest I have never really taken to Oriental girls. In Thailand where I spent so much time you could see the European men physically leaning back, while their little Thai ladies chattered away at them with voices that could heckle it’s way through granite. It was usually easier for them to get their wallets out than try to decipher what they were saying. There is no disapproval in my tone here, amour cuts through all sorts of barriers, I’m just too grumpy to cope with it all. Now give me an Aussi girl that can build a shed with me and that’s another matter…
So it’s 12.33 at night and I still have a shed load of work to do, so I’ll probably surface late again and taste a little more of this tricolor tinted orient, because i’m growing very fond of Saigon.