A person never knows what will happen next here. My plan today was to make contacts to promote the hotel and try to get some influential people here to recommend my place. It has been working out pretty good. Most tourists here have just arrived and intend to travel to the north. Hopefully they will stay with me. My wanderings took my thought e park close by and then it happened….. I got side tracked and everything changed.
I have mentioned before that this country is boiling slowly to a climax. Another day closer and new things are happening. The park magically filled with flowers of all sorts. The downtown area is turning into a giant flower and light show. I was particularly admiring the dragon fruit displays. Everything was set up so beautiful that I lost track of time. A cyclo driver was trying to get my attention for a fare, however, I was not interested so I told him in Vietnamese as much. I do not know how or why, but we ended up in deep conversation and quickly became pals. He never asked for money and because of that, I decided to hire him for the afternoon. I needed an education about Saigon, so he showed me. We went to the area where all of the embassies and consulates are. We also went by the zoo and into a part of Saigon that very few westerners ever see. Deep, deep in the maze of alleyways and tiny houses we stopped to interact with the locals. At first they were a little suspicious of a foreigner being in their midst, but after talking with them in my bad Vietnamese, they warmed up and it was good fun. I left promising them that I would return. Here is some sad news about cyclos.
The government has deemed that cyclos are too dangerous in Saigon and Hanoi. The driver of my cyclo was saddened. He enjoys driving his bicycle and will be now forced to become a Xe Om driver. In two months the cyclo will disappear from the two cities. I think that this is going to be a big loss to the flavor of Vietnam. The cyclo driver has to be one of the hardest working, and poorest of the working class. They are responsible for much more than simply driving tourists around. They act as a low cost courier to deliver all kinds if goods. They are also used to transport children to and from school, or weak people to pick up groceries at the market. I cannot see an 80 year old woman using a motorcycle taxi to go shopping. Knowing Vietnamese
people, they will probably come up with some ingenious way of coping. This sudden end to the cyclo reminds me of other events that happened here. When the government speaks, the whole population acts. About two years ago the government announced it was introduced helmet laws and in a single day, the whole country went to wearing nothing, to wearing helmets. Another announcement at the same time was that any air
polluting vehicle was to be outlawed. Literally overnight the old chugging busses, Tuc-tucs and old style vehicles were gone. When a law is made here, it is acted on immediately by the people, and alas, sadly the cyclo is the next big new change.
The young woman that cleans the hotel I am staying in was standing in the doorway looking bored when I returned. I asked her if she was going out, but she replied she has no friends here and nowhere to go. I told her I would take her somewhere and she was delighted. I decided to take her atop the tallest hotel in Saigon to a small lounge for a drink and see the view. The Sheraton hotel is expensive even by our standards and she was a little reluctant, but I was able to persuade her. When she saw the price of the drinks she wanted to leave, but I assured her it was OK. Sh sat and marveled over the balcony at seeing the city from such a height. After one drink, I took her to another bar in the hotel that had a live rock band. They were excellent and we were treated to the added bonus of some Korean and Japanese business men being there with their sexy and slinky concubines. The way they wriggled on the dance floor and entertained the old men was a sight to behold. Khuyen I spoke of her in an early December blog) sat with jaw agape. She had the time of her life and is still telling stories to her co-workers this morning. I am glad I was able to give her a little happiness, if even for only a short time.