Adventures as Miss Saigon

January review

Posted on: January 23, 2011

Now that I’ve finished my Christmas/Cambodia blogs, my focus is on catching up on the month of January…a fair bit has happened, even though it’s all low key and local!

Two weeks ago, I got an email from Will, one of the Aussies we met on New Years Eve in Cambodia. He was in Cambodia with his girlfriend, Katie, and friend, Ben. Katie had to return home shortly after NYE, but Will and Ben were continuing to travel and Vietnam was next on their list. I agreed to meet them the next day for dinner and drinks in D1 (downtown/backpacker’s district).

The fun began while waiting for them at Go2. I was minding my own business, sipping my ca phe sua da, when I was sexually assaulted by one of the young girls selling items on the street. She came up, plunked herself down beside me and began pestering me to buy her items. Sadly here, the only way to be left alone by people selling anything is to avoid eye contact and to “shoo” them away with a shake of your head or a flick of your hand. Anything more (smiling while “shoo-ing”, saying no, or being polite in any way) is guaranteed to get you engaged in an epic sales pitch, by the instigator and their friends. The first time I “shoo-ed” this girl away, she reached over and grabbed both of my breasts. Then, when I more directly “shoo-ed” her off, she stood up, gave me the finger and yelled “f**k you” to me and other Go2 customers who had also brushed her off. Not a way to make a sale!

Will and Ben showed up shortly after, and the girl returned to hassle the newcomers. Being tourists, Will and Ben hadn’t learned the avoidance techniques I just described. They were suckered into playing games and giving her money (her last ditch sales pitch was “give me money and I’ll go away”). We went for a delicious Vietnamese banh xeo (pancake) dinner…pancakes here are not like Western pancakes. Here, they are made out of rice flour (and other ingredients), and stuffed with bean sprouts and, traditionally, pork and shrimp. You rip off pieces of the pancake and wrap it in lettuce leaves with mint, basil or other herbs, and dip it in fish sauce. It’s messy, delicious, and Vietnamese.

banh xeo

Dinner lead to drinks, and drinks lead to more drinks, and this girl was out way past her bedtime, especially on a school night! Will and Ben were a lot of fun to hang out with, and it’s always a good time in D1 – the place never closes! After a long day at work the next day (due to the previous night’s events) I headed back to meet Will and Ben for a few more drinks. Ben was flying home the next morning, and Will was sticking around for a few more days. The night was much calmer than the previous night, seeing as the guys were just waking up, and I should have been in bed. It was still fun to hang out with them and show them around a bit.

The next night, Wendy and I went out for sushi dinner with Laura, who was flying home the next day. Laura had just finished her one year contract here with the family she worked for, and was going home for almost a month before returning to a supervisory position here. It’s sad to think that that could have been our last dinner with her had she decided to move home or to the states. Lucky for us, she’ll be around here for the next year at least! It was still sad saying goodbye, but Laura was so excited to get home and see her family and friends that she hasn’t seen for so long!

Saturday morning found Wendy, Will and I on an early morning bus headed to Mekong Delta for a two day, homestay adventure. This “adventure” was very touristy, with not much physical activity and snack breaks every 2 hours. We covered a lot of grounds though, and sights included a pagoda, a coconut candy factory, a vermicelli rice noodle factory, and a trip to the floating markets. The highlight for us, was definitely the homestay. Eight of us from our bus load had signed us for the homestay, and while the rest of the bus was checking into the hotel, we were greeted by Hung, who took us by taxi, then boat to his family’s “house”. Although the family lived on the property, we slept in basic bungalows by the water. We had a delicious fresh dinner prepared by the family, and drank beers and rice wine with Hung after his family had gone to bed. We arrived back in HCMC on Sunday evening, and although it was fun, I’ve sworn off all bus trips for the next little while.

big buddha at the pagoda

pagoda in mekong delta

coconut candy factory

dog at the homestay eating fish breakfast

floating market

floating market

wendy and i playing with pythons in mekong delta

On Monday night, Tony had invited me out for a goat curry dinner. Tony picked me up on his motorbike, and we drove across the city to get to this little back alley restaurant that he and his wife know about. The city is already beautifully decorated for Tet (Vietnamese lunar new year) with festive lights throughout downtown, and I strangely enjoy riding on the back of a motorbike through the busy city. Intimidated about trying goat for the first time, I decided just to trust Tony’s taste buds. We sat on little stools, surrounded by Vietnamese locals, and thankfully Tony took care of ordering the goat, as the menu was in Vietnamese, and my guess is the restaurant staff only spoke Vietnamese as well! Of course the meal turned out to be delicious, and I hope I get invited out for goat again soon! (I’d never be able to find the alleyway that the restaurant was down, nevermind order off the menu!) We finished our evening sitting at Go2, drinking beers with ice and discussing work, my future in Vietnam, and life in Vietnam in general. Tony’s been very understanding about my decision to return home at the end of my 12 month contract, but assured me that I could return at any time. In fact, he said he’d place money on it…we’ll see! 🙂

Tuesday evening held an unexpected adventure. Just when I thought I had things in Vietnam figured out, I received notice in the mail that there was a package to pick up at the post office. Thinking I knew where my post office was from the first package that had been sent from home, I went there but was given another address. After work, the mom I work for told me to give the address to my motorbike guy, and he would take me where I needed to go. An hour and a half later, 3 stops (including random houses/construction sites), we finally found the right post office and I claimed my package. I at least have the post office system kind of figured out now – there is only one post office in my district where international packages are held. Troi oi!

This weekend has been a quiet one – pedis and dinner with Wendy on Friday night, a hair appointment Saturday afternoon, and dinner and a movie with Wendy on Saturday night. Saturday night was the first time we’d gone to the movies in Vietnam, and it was quite an experience! From the $3.50usd movie ticket, the sweet popcorn, the hilarious Vietnamese movie previews, the awkward edits/scene censors in the movie, the guy loudly answering his cell phone and having a full discussion during the movie, to the bright lights being turned on before the credits started rolling, the experience was definitely better than the movie! It cheap and hilarious entertainment, and we’ll likely do it again soon.

For now, we just have to get through this work week, before another week’s vacation, including 5 days back in Cambodia, this time to visit Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor. I’m so excited to get back to Cambodia with Wendy!


4 Responses to "January review"

What an amazing adventure you are on! And such a wonderful experience!!! It all sounds like so much fun!!! All the best from St.Thomas 😉

thanks amanda! i’ve been talking to your mom and saw all her christmas pics of the kiddos…you guys have such a beautiful family!

Hi Megs
It certainly looks like you are having a terrific time. Go for it!!!
It is sounding like you have fallen in love with the countries over there. Today I am looking out of my window at work and the snow is almost to the window. It was wicked yesterday, but today is sunny & bright. All is well here with everyone. Nan is coming to Sarnia for a few days next week.
Must run.
Aunt Monica

hi aunt monica! i hear there’s lots of snow at home! mom’s been showing me the snow piling up thanks to skype…i can’t even imagine it! and COLD too! eek! hope things are well and will try and connect with everyone this weekend 🙂

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January 2011
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