The Saigon Story

The last week was quite the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid for me. Not that I am twelve. Nor am I wimpy. But Greg Heffley would have definitely envied me had he seen me over the last week.

But allow me to elaborate. The husband had to go to Saigon for official work, and I, the pampered housewife decided to tag along. And since we stayed in the guest house where the kitchen is a true no man’s land, I was pretty much left to my own devices with nothing to do. I mean nothing. Not even make the perfunctory cup of coffee in the morning for the husband. So I did what any clever wife on a break would do. Plonked myself down on the couch, put my feet up on the table, turned on the AC (it was effing hot and humid there, even in November) and sat my way through a movie marathon while eating my way through a heap of snacks I’d buy from the mart downstairs. And I would do this everyday. The husband, in Mom Heffley style, had suggested from time to time that I go out and explore the city, but ah, who wants to get all tanned and sweaty and tired when I could do all the exploring after dark, once the husband was home?

Oh but I did go out once. All by myself. To the blessed Bin Thanh market. And emptied my purse out there under the influence of wooing salesgirls. In my defense, they could actually speak English! And it was such a relief to be able to bargain in English! Well, I discovered Saigon is more used to, and hence more open to tourists. And hands down younger and more vibrant than Hanoi. Hanoi has an old city charm, and I imagine it to be place which doesn’t reveal its secrets to you that easily. You have to give it some time, and slowly, it will open itself to you. Not Saigon though. Saigon embraces you with open arms the moment you land here, and invites you, entices you, to enjoy thoroughly. While at Hanoi the streets are empty by nine, Saigon doesn’t sleep before eleven. If only there were no traffic jams bad enough to make you lose all enthusiasm because you actually forget where you were headed to all decked up, Saigon and I would have been best friends, me thinks.

But coming back to the exploring bit, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe there and then walked around the lanes in District 1, which is one of the most happening places in the city. Restaurants and five star hotels and shopping malls, they all are nestled close by each other in that area. We dined at an Indian restaurant, and the food was Indian enough for us, which is all that can be said about it. There are in fact quite a few Indian restaurants there, which is really a consequence of the fact that there are many Indians out there. Staying in Hanoi it was quite the pleasant change for me to see some faces from back home. Even though the few ladies that I talked to didn’t take me as an Indian in first glance. But well, what’s new in that, huh?

For the weekend we escaped to a place called Phan Thiet about four hours from Saigon by car. The husband and I, another Indian couple and a Vietnamese family; we all packed ourselves in a big van and reached the Pandanus Resort by the Mui Ne beach at around midnight on Friday. And even though I spent most of the journey playing sign language with the Vietnamese kids (two cute little girls) and the other half gaping at dragon fruit farms with lights glowing on each goddamn plant, the moment I was in the resort I was like a kid on a sugar high. The men folk shared a couple of drinks by the pool till two in the morning while the wives gave them company and laughed at the kids’ antics. Typical.

If I were to write about the resort this post will carry on forever because I could write pages of poetry in rhyme for that place. Flowers. Bluest pool ever. Coconut palms scattered over green grassy fields. Sea waves that made themselves heard all day long, and even more at night. Ponds and fisheries with pink and purple lotus floating on them. Live music in the reception area. More flowers. The B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L spa. And then some more flowers. The place was seriously a riot of colors. And as if that was not enough, I jet skied over those huge waves, tried way more seafood than my “khar-khuwa” stomach is used to (huge shrimps the size of crabs, oysters, roasted prawns), and then topped it off with locally brewed beer. I guess “bliss” has a whole new standard to live up to right now.

But like all good movies and better books, the holiday ended a little too soon. Not before adding a lot to my life, though. And I am not just talking about the extra kilos that I now flaunt (not!). Now that I am back in Hanoi, and it is nippy and gray all day long, all I do is close my eyes and think of that time when I was lying all by myself in a beach chair under a coconut palm, a drink with oranges and peach in my hands, the sea waves lulling me to sweet slumber and my eyes struggling between wanting to surrender and to take in all that was in front of me. Believe it or not, I am transported in a moment. And the cold isn’t that bad anymore.

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