In Love with Saigon

It’s been a long while. I fell in love again. Her name’s Saigon, as referred proudly by pro-American Vietnamese from South Vietnam, where she’s located. Of late, she has been renamed Ho Chi Minh, after Uncle Ho, the Lenin fanatic communist leader from North Vietnam. Needless to say, anti-American Vietnamese from North Vietnam refers her in that name. I prefer the former. Uncle Ho was an ugly fuck.

It is at this point that I should highlight that I’m NOT pro-American especially what they have done in the Vietnam War. I admire Uncle Ho’s persistence and leadership, but hey, he was still an ugly fuck.

Time seems to freeze in Saigon (hehe)… you will feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1970s. I’d strongly recommend you visit her some day too. Instead of boring you with the stereotypical Lonely Planet type of information, which already exists anyway, do allow me to share with you what I’ve learnt about this virginal Asian beauty.

1. Traffic flows like the river
It is impossible not to notice the never-ending flow of motorbikes when you embark on your first ride into the hustle and bustle Saigon has to offer. Even if you’re blind. No seriously, everyone use his or her honks for conversations on the road. And it is not considered impolite. As a matter of fact, they like to get cosy like this:

Never-ending River of Traffic

Never-ending River of Traffic

Never-ending River of Traffic

It was just plain unlucky that the motorbike my designer Alistair and I rented had a faulty horn. Dumbass luck.

2. It’s ok to have a bad start

Upon arrival in Saigon I received a call from the local agency, informing us that the original hotel rooms we’ve booked have been mistakenly cancelled by some idiot from the hotel. The fact that most hotels in Saigon were fully booked didn’t quite help our situation. In the end, we managed to find ourselves a presidential suite each at Metropole, and it looks like this:

The Bed

The Living Room

Where I work

Room lights

The Bathroom

3. Dig in!

I’ve come across 4 locals having a swell of a time digging their noses in public. God knows why, but each time I witnessed their self indulgent activity, I was either having lunch or drinking. Urgh.

4. Savor the art of whisky tasting
Yes I’m shameless, and I’m promoting my brand here. But why not? Join the rest of the whisky-loving nation and learn the different methods of drinking whisky at Johnnie Walker’s Showroom.

5. Fake DVDs, CDs and… Books?

Fake DVDs and CDs, we have them here in Singapore too. But well, it cost S$1.30 per DVD and S$0.80 per CD in Saigon. You do the math. What shocked me was the fact that they have fake books too! If I’ve known, I wouldn’t have gotten that Steve Berry book from the airport bookshop.

6. Signs that make you smile
I figured a picture paints a thousand words for this bit.

No Pay No Delicious

Chicken Cordon Bleu

COME IN PUSH

7. Learn about Laquer Art
Down at Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street, you’d find a laquer art factory that produces handmade laquer art. If you’re into that like I am, do check it out. It’s a tedious process that requires a lot of patience. Draining, really. And that’s why you see people sleeping all about the factory.

Laquer Art

Using Eggs

Laquer Art

Laquer Art

At Peace

Laquer Art

Tired

At Engraving

8. Vietnam War in a nutshell
Visit the Reunification Palace for this:

Where he used to sleep

I work alone

Escape Route

Escape Route

As I was typing...

And watch the live video of this Pulitzer Prize-winning picture by war photographer Eddie Adams. In a way, I thank god I fell asleep for most of the video.

9. Ride with them
No helmets. No sense of direction. No fear. Rent a motorbike at USD7 a day and discover the city in the most authentic way possible. And call your mum to inform her that you’re riding without a helmet with a cigarette lingering by the side of your mouth while you’re at it. Take photos of yourself. I did.

Being Pat Law

Alistair and I

Hitting the roads

She rides well

Outside Binh Thanh Market

Outside Binh Thanh Market

Getting Giddy

10. Tu est Jolie Bien, Saigon
The French influence peels off the dilapidated buildings of Saigon, but evident no less. There are dozens of cafes brewing authentic Vietnamese coffee, which really, you should try. It’s a killer that’s bound to make your pubes stand. Here’s why I think Saigon’s beautiful.

Still running

Trishaw Men

Envy

Can you hear me crying?

Enter with caution

Giving credit as its due

Let Faith linger

Got milk?

Notre Dame Vietnam

Be informed always

I’ll be returning to Saigon in a couple of weeks. Anyone wants any LEGIT stuff, holler over.


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