The Vietnam hangover

I know, I know. Just day before yesterday I posted about our holiday to Vietnam. For all intents and purposes that should have been it. I should have gotten the closure I was seeking (wait, am I the only one who gets closure by writing about something?) But let’s just face it. When it comes to Vietnam, I will never get closure. There will always be a part of me clinging on to the echos of Vietnam, and I will always turn into sentimental mush at the mere mention of the place. A major part of it must be because I started life as a newly wed in Vietnam. I will always associate that heady newness and fragrant romance with Hanoi… the thrill of getting to know my brand new husband better, and together exploring a new place that was nothing like I had ever encountered before… building a home together from scratch, piece by piece, two plastic coffee mugs and two dinner plates at a time.

Although this time we didn’t go to Hanoi and instead went to HCMC, it was still extremely nostalgic for both of us. The husband had lived in HCMC for almost a year before shifting to Hanoi and so provided a running commentary for the benefit of my sister and brother-in-law while I soaked in the pulse and energy of the city on the brink of bursting into midnight celebrations on New Year’s Eve. The traffic was just as I remembered it: crazy chaotic. And crossing the road felt exactly how it did two years ago. After all, you never really get used to surrendering yourself to the flow of traffic as it weaves around you while you hold your heart in your hands and try hard not to look left or right and keep going straight ahead. Despite being in HCMC, my mind kept drifting to Hanoi, and I found myself wishing we had enough time and more importantly, energy and patience to travel with the baby to Hanoi as well. I found myself missing lazy Sunday breakfasts in Highland Coffee near the Opera House, or taking a walk near Hoan Kiem Lake and entertaining ourselves with hilariously dramatic bridal photo shoots. I really missed the chaos of the night market, specially because by the time we had checked in the hotel, freshened up and come out for dinner the famous Ben Thanh market was closing up. I even missed the wet market right next to our apartment back in Hanoi and the humungous Big C where you could find everything from crocodile meat to satin pajamas. But most of all I missed my confidence and fluency in Vietnamese. It was a little embarrassing to walk up to a shop keeper, demand to know the price of a water bottle in Vietnamese and then take five minutes to figure out what he said until he took pity on me and blurted out the price in English. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Or maybe I was just missing the carefree life we had lived as newly weds in Vietnam. When the only thing we had to worry about was whether there was a new English movie on in Vincom Tower on Friday and if not, what we were to do other than drink beer and gorge on Al Fresco’s pizza and beef lasagna and if the print in the new DVD we had bought was good enough. Life was so ridiculously simple back then that in retrospection, I wonder why we even bothered ourselves with silly things to worry about. I mean seriously, it was an eight month long honeymoon, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start our married life.

Our last time in HCMC


Coming back to this trip, ah, things were definitely different. Last time, we were the newly weds who had all the time in the world and lounged about the pool till late at night nursing our drinks. This time we were parents traveling with their opinionated always-on-the-verge-of-tantrums one year old, around whose schedule our world revolved. But it was surprisingly not that difficult, you know? We did manage to spend some quality time sitting on our balcony listening to the crashing waves during dinner and planning our next holiday (always the best thing to talk about on a holiday) while the baby slept peacefully inside. As for the baby, I had known about the Vietnamese and their immense love for babies but to have actually experienced it first hand was beautiful. Baby girl seemed way more at ease saying Hi and giving flying kisses to strangers there, and there was no sign of the grumpy baby I see in Singapore. The staff in the resort would go out of their way to make things easier for us at the mere sight of the baby. Any request, followed by “for the baby” prompted the fastest service, and an extra smile. Like I always keep saying, it’s always about the people, right? And when it comes to warm and simple and superbly friendly, in my mind, none can beat the Vietnamese.

Maybe I should stop now, eh? I just realized that I have spent the better part of an hour typing this on my phone while baby is napping, even though I should have been napping too. The little tyke’s teething and I have started dreading the nights. Honestly, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and teething don’t really go well together. Which is why I will now close my eyes and brace myself for the inevitable bite that’s going to wake me up yet again, and just hope that it doesn’t happen until after about an hour. Sigh.


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