VIETNAM THE PRETTY
Yesterday. Up in the morning. Hit the streets by 7am with our bright young motorbike guides. That unplanned Sydney stopover sucked up some of our already-brief Saigon hours but focus conquers time…we hope.
I usually think China and/or India will run the world by sometime in the not-too-distant future. But then our guides stop at the grand old post office for our first glimpse of tourist Saigon. Built by the French in 1886, when this was all a place called French Indochina, it is an impressive reminder of…colonialism as a progenitor of magnificent buildings; Ho Chi Minh’s portrait looms large inside as a reminder of…what sheer determination and doggedness can also accomplish. And then there’s McDonald’s right next door. I’m reminded that governments may construct giant edifices and talk and shoot a good game but it’s still all about the money, baby…
It was 7:05am…out the door; in love with Saigon by 7:12am. I know, I know, not supposed to be loveable but from the back of a motor scooter, through back streets and around the corners, and making it alive through the intersections, and past every sales op known to humankind with all the chatter and color and fruits and pretties for the pretty and laundry waving from the balconies and the flower market and fish market and even the odd Circle K-market…it was a sensual treat…as Asia always is.
The Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral (I suppose France brought Catholicism here—for the good of no one—but they also brought baguettes—doesn’t make up for foisting god on the land—but makes breakfasts here the best in Asia), War Remnants Museum, memorial to the burning monk, and the Thien Hau Chinese Buddhist Temple. As interesting a four hours as we’ve both ever spent.
A quick lunch and off to the airport for an hour’s flight to Da Nang where our route out of town passed by a mammoth amusement part of some kind—an Asian Westworld possibly—we encouraged the taxi to go quickly just in case. I couldn’t help but think about how many hundreds of times I heard that exotic name ‘Da Nang’ on the news in the 70s… but moving on…
It was an hour’s taxi to our Hoi An destination. Described thusly on line: Hội An is a city on Vietnam’s central coast known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture, a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda.
And here we are. I’ve taken a lazy day while Tee is off at her cooking class. From which she should have returned by now…so just because she is a responsible and fairly worldly 27-year-old engineer visiting a charming somewhat sleepy little tourist town doesn’t mean I’m not going to panic if she’s not back in another half an hour! I knew I should have stayed with her every moment…she’s been kidnapped by the Israelis OR run off with the carnival barker guy from last night’s waterfront show OR given up her citizenship to stay in Vietnam near her favorite Mekong catfish—with its charred exterior and evil eye of fish-eating doom.
Okay…she’s back…looking five pounds chubbier but happy.
I must have these lay-around days every week or so I think. By the time I hit the Stan countries in my 90s I suppose it’ll be every other day.