Good Morning Vietnam!

September 30, 2009

fa2ff740167beed7a874f361a5dc6833Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon,  is vibrant and colorful, inhabited by a people brimming with energy, always in a hurry, making their livelihoods on the road, always a cacophony of sounds, a mad rush somewhere, where money, goods and services are always changing hands, and yet, there are places, pockets of oasis where old men practice taichi, housewives gather to chat, and young couples sit on park benches under tree lined lanes holding hands and peering into each other’s eyes.

I look forward to all the meals – I’ve had great morning baguettes, noodle soups for lunch and amazing crab spring rolls during dinner. In fact, Vietnamese cuisine is a revelation – it is subtle and delicate, well seasoned and well balanced (with herbs & citrus), replete with the obligatory mystery sauces & meats.

Walking down the streets of Saigon is a sensory overload; Of countless motorcycles for whom there are no rules, and whose constant honking is de riguer and may actually be necessary, and we fear for our lives!! Of street hawkers cooking delicious pho and barbeque-ing marinated pork soon to be wrapped in lettuce and drizzled with fish sauce; Of old buildings whispering past dreams and solemn secrets, while newer architecture fills the saigonese with the hope that the country has shaken off its war scars, and is looking ahead to the future.    

We went to the mekong delta, and beyond the floating markets and quaint villages, observed that this mightly river and its tributaries still held the lifeline of people living along its banks, much like the ganges or the bosphorus or the amazon, with its mom & pop cottage industries, its children bathing and its women doing the laundry.  At times, as we fell silent while making our way down the river, and as we looked out of the boat, life would drift ever so slowly by.  Nothing but the gentle drone of the boat’s engine.

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