Thursday, January 10, 2013


Yesterday’s stroll quickly took on the aspect of something epic.  It started with a trip to Ben Than market, a heaving mass of humanity with something to sell, be it clothes, fish, a  ‘hilarious Vietnamese Starbucks parody t-shirt,’ or a new bag.  So much to see and nothing at all I want to buy.  I’m going there again today with my cookery class which should be better, I guess.  The market had none of the charm of, say, The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, or even Camden in London.  Maybe I’m just tired and hot.

The rest of my walk was much better though.  I discovered a bakery which sold me a baguette for 50p.  Lunch of champions! I hear the disapproval from here, you know? A baguette when you’re in a culinary hub? Yes, Vietnam was colonised by the French and in the manner of imperialism inadvertently left behind some of their culinary heritage.  Asia, with decent bread…I may swoon!  (Thanks, Britain, btw, for giving us boiled mutton and Christmas pudding…you shouldn’t have).

Then I walked along a road I remember coming along in my taxi from the airport.  I was on the hunt for a pink church.  While taking time from gazing at scooterist’s shoes I had noticed a catholic church of such overwhelming pinkness I had to see more.  Oh, my, goodness! It was certainly pink.  And even better, it was pink on the inside too.  A candy coloured confection in manner of Barbie’s dream house.  It was Barbie’s dream church on a busy road in the middle of Saigon.  I wonder if Barbie knows about it.

Taking the scenic road back, and thanking my lucky stars for my brand new Google Maps App, I practised crossing the road – one must not hesitate, just walk confidently.  I stopped for yet another iced coffee – this one with cornflakes on top for reasons which escape me, and then continued on my walk.

The hotel is near a huge row of Japanese restaurants, beckoning me with their sushi laden goodness, but I stood strong my friends, and went in search of spring rolls.  I think I may have found perfection in rice paper.

This morning, as I get ready for cooking school, I have dined on seafood noodle soup.  It’s made my eyes water and my computer slightly splattered.  Fortified!

The Streets of Saigon

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ho Chi Minh

The first thing you notice, of course, is the ubiquitous scooters.  In the taxi from the airport they waft around you in an intricate dance to which you don’t know the steps.  The being horns must mean something – get out of my way? I’m behind you? I’m turning left?  I don’t know what they mean.  It’s not like India, there does seem to be a method, but I’m just not sure what that method is yet.

Weary after an 8 hour flight and an uncomfortably hot stay in Sydney – with the temperature pushing 40˚ and the aircon kaput – I looked down, at the shoes.  What variety: ridiculous heels, the latest Nikes, bare feet, ballet pumps, jandels.  It was a shoe store on wheels. 

I was tucked up in bed by 7.30 last night, the six hour time difference with New Zealand caught up with me and after slurping a quick bowl of Pho I couldn’t face exploring any more.  ‘How I met Your Mother’ was on the TV and I fell asleep to another inane joke from that Doogie Howser chap.

This morning, feeling refreshed after 11 hours sleep, I tucked into a plate of noodles for breakfast and sat on the roof terrace looking out over Saigon.  The man beside me shook his head at my hot coffee and went inside to make me an iced one.  Three glasses later I remembered I usually have about one coffee a week, a frothy confection from Starbucks that blurs some moral boundary.  Ho Chi Minh is certainly winning on coffee quality.

It’s time to explore.  I’ll try not to get squashed by a scooter.