Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Morning in Saigon

Had a great time this morning. No world series game on the telly, so we got up and out fairly early. Took a taxi to the central market in District 1, Ban Thahn, where we were once again good humoredly surrounded by persistent young women sellling t-shirts (like attractive, smiling gnats) ...however this time we were in the market for a tshirt or two so Jerry bargained them down to something acceptable. We even got a begrudging "your husband, good bargainer". Took a look at the food stalls and "wet" (meat, fish, and vegetables) and dry markets before heading off to a restuarant we ate at yesterday.

And here is one of those amazing Vietnam stories. I've already mentioned how we recovered Jerry's camera from a restuarant in Hanoi the day after he left it there. Well, yesterday my little leather pouch with our travel dominoes fell out of the purse (or off the table) while we were eating at the Ngon restaurant on Nam Ki Khoi Nghia. I didn't discover it until late last night (when we were sipping a Guiness and a shot of Jameson at OBrien's Pub on Hai Ba Trung). Yes...once again the honesty of the Vietnam people graciously raised its head. When we went back (with a picture I drew of the pouch and a case the English didn't translate well) they indeed had our little pouch. I'm not sure which pleased me more...having our dominoes back or the honesty of the people at the restaurant!. This is how we've found people here..honest, considerate, and patient (and very confident, aggressive drivers!!!).

After recovering the dominoes, we took a taxi to the cholon market in chinatown. The Chinatown is argued to be one of the largest if not THE largest chinatown in the world (outside of china, of course). We believe it. Its in District 5...about a 5 dollar taxi ride (about 20 to 25 minutes) out of District 1. it was FASCINATING. We loved it. The central market was kind of like an Asian Costco in that many things were for sale in bulk...I needed a new set of tweezers because i lost my old ones...I had to buy 5!! Of course it only cost me 1 dollar for 5 tweezers...need one? There were rows of dried mushrooms, peppercorns, dried fruit, and lots of things I have no idea what they were. A whole roll of plastic know the kind you can use for outdoor tablecloths? A great fish, crab, shrimp market...fresh, fresh, fresh. Fresh fruit. Chinese market had a small temple in the middle where people came and lit incense (to take their prayers to god on the smoke). Pots and Pans for sale. We bought these vegeteble scrapers that peel off long "strings" from things like green papaya or carrots. We did not have to buy 5 of them fortunately. Rows of bras, underwear, children's clothes, socks and more shoes (don't know if people here are especially hard on their shoes or what...maybe its the rain and dragging them along the moped)

After meandering through the market and enjoying a coca cola light in the center courtyard we took two cyclos (a bicycle driven a rickshaw) through China town. We thought we had bargained them down for 1/2 hour ride for essentially 3 dollars a piece. Turns out it was an hour ride that we bargained them down to 3 dollars a piece. Funny how that works. Worked for us. Again...streets that specialized in dried mushrooms, locks, hardware and safes, chinese celebration paraphenalia (dragon heads, costumes, banners), "fruit" streets", DVD and CD streets, children's toys streets. All mixed up with housing old and new, freshly painted and quietly decaying. We passed a mosque, many buddhist temples, and one grand Catholic Church, Cha Tam

Then it was a taxi ride back to District 1 where we had a pizza and coke (i had TWO cokes) at Al Fresco, a delightful ex-pat find. Good food, good price. And another funny story. When we walked in a young woman with a big smile who worked there looked at us and at Jerry in particular and say "hi" as if she recognized us...hmmm?. She came over to the table and in broken but passable English explained that she had just come by motorbike from the Chinese area and had seen us in our cyclos. She recognized us because jerry was wearing a bright orange checked scarf as a headband (we bought it in Cambodia) which looks pretty exotic and also a bright orange shirt. She recognized him! Very funny. At least she didn't think that Elton John had just walked into the restuarant!

Now we are back in the cool of the hotel. The club lounge overlooks the Saigon River and it looks like it will rain this afternoon. Jerry went to get a shiatsu massage...I'm going to read for awhile. Having dinner tonight with an old friend from college.

More on Saigon in a later post.

No comments: