Arrived in Vietnam on the Saturday night. This is a country that will arouse your sense of smell… although I’ve been told its nothing compared to India…
I’m here visiting relatives who I am seeing for the first time in my life and their lives. There was no kissing or hugging. Displays of affection are simply not part of Asian culture, but a simple handshake, a polite call of “brother Chong”, a small nod to the head and we firmly established ourselves on the same patriarchal footing. It was as if we were joined at the hip again.
Brother Chong is much older than I am and when it comes to relatives it doesn’t get any closer than first cousins. We met at the airport and took a taxi to the ‘Houng Ngoc My’ hotel near ‘An Dong’ plaza. This part of town is in district 5 whom I have been told is basically Vietnam’s Chinatown. I can’t speak a word of Vietnamese, however their is large majority of people here who can speak Cantonese, which I can speak also. All I can say is ‘Thank God’ because English is not spoken like it is in district 1 were all the expats hang out.
This part of Ho Chi Minh is still off the radar for most tourists. Its a good thing, the street vendors, chuggers and spruikers are less visible… you still get the odd lottery ticket holder trying to sell you some numbers but they usually shoo off the first time you say no.
I really do need to learn some Vietnamese… If I wasn’t already committed to someone I would do what the great explorer Richard Burton did when it came to languages. Hook up with a native and emerse yourself in her culture and world view. He learnt no less than 27 languages this way. Vietnamese woman are really beautiful to look at. They easily rank up there with other top contending Asian nations such as the Phillipines.
Anyway… so where was I… ah yes, Brother Chong took me out for a quick supper at one of his favourite duck noodle restaurants, which I must say is as good as any you can get in Australia. The only flaw if there was one was the size of the bowl… it was more like a snack for me and this is after I doubled up on the noodles. Hmmm craving for a bowl right now…
The next night, we went around town in Chongs motorbike/scooter, he showed me where his kids work, bought some duck and roast pork and went back to their place for dinner. This is what I have been waiting for, A simple home cooked meal with my relos in Vietnam. It really is an experience for me, their was about 10 of us, including friends and other relatives and we all squeezed in together on this low and tiny coffee table… it was all very close nit and very convivial, laughter was abundant and all around. Something I will definitely remember. Can’t really show you pictures of my relatives for privacy reasons, but I took some pictures of the home cooked meal. Below you will see sea snails, roast duck, roast pork, raw mango salad and mud crab full of roe. Hmmm