A hammer came down…. And hard it seems…. I walked at 9 pm along the streets of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien to be amazed by how different it was from only a month ago. There was police presence everywhere, and all of the motorcycle cowboys and sultry temptresses were glaringly absent. Not once did the friends I was with get the offer of a massage or boom boom. Could it be that the city is finally trying to clean up the rampant sex and petty thievery rings? I guess time will tell. I am sure that I will be in Saigon again in the near future, and I will see then. Speaking of Saigon…… I thought it might be nice to meet wit a couple of the travel advice givers on the Trip Advisor website. I met with two of them at a corner watering hole that is very popular in the main tourist area. Viet720 was the first to arrive and 69bertie was not long to follow. We sat and discussed some
issues and shared experiences of being advisors to people wanting to travel to Vietnam. I even received a few pokes about my writing style, but it was all in fun. About half an hour into our conversation, my friends from V’Exlplore Travel showed up. I had booked an overnight Mekong tour with them. Nghia the business owner, and Hau the general manager not only deciced to accompany us on the Mekong trip, but also wanted to get together for a fun evening before we left. So there we were…. Me and my friend, with two travel advisors, and the owners of a Company that make travel dreams to Vietnam come true. I took a liking to 69bertie and Viet720 and my V’Explore friends must have felt the same as they were invited to join us for a bit of a mixer in a very local area. Sadly, Viet720 and 69bertie politely declined. I felt badly that we only visited for an hour and a half. I wish they had come with us as it would have given them an insight of “my Vietnam”. The offer for them to join us was sincere, and I know they would have had a great time. I will try to give you a picture of what an evening out with local friends is like. We drove some distance deep into a district that had no trace of foreigner anywhere. Down a few small streets and we arrived at a corner open aired restaurant that was owned by a friend of Nghia. Wide eyed at the sight of two westerners come to join them, an emergency round of Heinekens were ordered and then downed with a mighty back slapping hello. Within minutes they we had become their best buddies and the party was on. A fantastic tasting dish of meaty frogs and pig tongue with noodles was served along with the bottomless glassed of beer. It was a hot night and the beer had to be cooled by ice. I usually detest the watering down of my beer, but in this case it was a godsend. The ice
used up most of the glasses volume and the melting watered down the beer so the constant calling for the draining of the glass did not put us into drunken stupors. Now the fun begins. Out comes a guitar and the next couple of hours are filled with the booming voices of men recanting songs of battles, love, and lost loves. Many of them were sung in a country style and after hearing enough of them, I was able to belt out a verse using lyrics such as, “I am only singing this because I know you do not understand a thing that I say” ……. What a hoot!! More frog was served and we hungrily devoured the dish. Sadly at about 10:30 people had to head home and get sleep. For them it was a work day tomorrow as is all days. We got back to our hotel and laughed about the fun we had. At some time before sleeping and sharing
laughs, I commented to Ca’rot, “welcome to my world”. For the past month or so, Ca’rot and I have been hanging out together doing different things. For good or bad, he has been experiencing how I live among the Vietnamese more like a local than a foreigner. I think this night might have been the last of the revelations to him. Like Drifter before, and now Ca’rot, they are welcome in the Vietnam that is far distant from the tourist areas. Real Vietnam is where all the fun and hospitality is. I wish more of you could experience it.