2010 SAIGON

I flew into Tan San Nhat Airport just on the outskirts of Saigon.  It was my first time back
since 1997 and though I had been warned, I wasn’t ready for all the changes.   I lived just
down the street from the airport in 1967. The Airport had been rebuilt and was fairly modern
and up to date compared to before.  The taxi fare was $7 and took almost an hour in heavy
traffic.  Most of all the bicycles and Cyclos were gone and replaced by Motor Bikes.  Millions
of them.  3 Million in Saigon alone. I welcomed the warm weather.  High rises were
everywhere and where there weren’t any, they were under construction.  It reminded me of
Panama City.  High rises everywhere but no infrastructure so getting back and forth took all
day.  None of those existed in 1997.  If this is the kind of rapid change with in just 13 years…
what is the next 13 years going to bring. Saigon has become a very upscale Major city with
Rodeo Drive on every downtown intersection but no parking so all the Motor  Bikes and cars
park on the sidewalks and the pedestrians walk in the street with the traffic.
I checked in to the Linh Linh Hotel,  then took a Cyclo to O’Brian’s Factory to have a pint with
the owner, Bernard Duval.  I got to the street and got off to walk but couldn’t find it. It was
MLK holiday so maybe he had pulled down his metal shutters and closed.
 I finally gave up as it got dark and decided to have a beer at the famous Rex Hotel rooftop
where all the correspondents covered the war from.  It was one of the highest buildings in
Saigon at the time.  They could have happy hour and watch the battles around Saigon take
place.  There were a lot of Americans and Aussies there that night.  I paid too much for a
Vietnamese Beer then walked back to the my hotel.
   I was passing by the Central Market (same place I did all my shopping in 1967 ).  I inquired
with a group of Cyclo drivers if they knew Minh , my Cyclo driver from ’97.  One said Minh
works in the Morning and goes home around 6-7pm and directed me to where he should be
in the morning.  Minh was a big help my last trip and took me to his home for dinner to meet
his family.  He knows the Old Saigon and can take you places that no one else can.  I hope
it is him and I get to see him.  
  I checked the address of O’Brians after returning to my room and discovered it moved up
the street.  I will go back in the afternoon and have lunch there. I took a quick shower and
went to the local restaurant next door for Shrimp Noodle Soup.  It was great with a 333 beer
for $3 total.  This morning a stopped at a popular Expat Restaurant and Bar next door
called Le Pub.
 I had a nice Italian Cappuccino with fresh fruit salad topped with Muesli and Yogurt.
Walking up and down 69 steps everyday to the fourth floor ..two or three times is good
for me. I relaxed with the newspaper then left for the Central Market.  A Cyclo driver told
me Minh didn’t come in today because of the rain.  He lives near the airport which is a long
way.   I walked around the Market.  It has been cleaned up since ’97 and was very nice but
the same market for the last 45 years.  Awesome fresh food, if I had a kitchen.  I did the next
best thing and had lunch there. Those are rows of live crabs in the bigger bowl and mussels,
snails, manila clams ..everything including live shrimp, squid, fish…unbelievable.    
I hired a taxi and for $2.50 he dropped me at O’Briens.  It does have a small entrance and is
hard to see from the street.  It has moved since last I was there, hence some of the confusion.
 It moved up and across the street.  Much nicer digs I might add.  Bernard does a great job of
paying attention to detail.  Nothing is overlooked and everything is maintained with high
standards.  He doesn’t come in until 7pm.  I gave the barmaid my photo of me with Pius,
Bernard’s friend and told her to give it to Bernard to pass on to Pius. I put my name and
date on the back.  She said Pius had been in twice yesterday.  Pius is also one of my Facebook
friends but now Facebook is off limits in Vietnam.   He was named after a Pope and his Uncle
is the Archbishop of Malaysia…last time I was here.  Maybe he is the Pope now?
  I have to return tomorrow.   I have a Happy Hour meet up with the InterNations group at
the Xu Bar which is right next door to O’Brians.  I’m an Albatross member so get in for free
and first drink is free.  That only costs $100. The barmaid shared some Pompolos with me.  It
is a sweet Grapefruit that is 5 times the size of ours and excellent.  You dip pieces of the fruit
in a mix of salt and cayenne.  Same with Pineapple and other fruits.  Nice healthy bar snack.
 She bid me good by with promises of passing on my message and I wandered home.  
I stopped at an ATM in the Saigon Center…Shopping High Rise Building of the future.  I was
on my way back to the Central Market, after a Vietnamese Coffee at the Highlands when
a little shop caught my eye.  It was full of statues and collector’s items…GI Zippos.  They sure
looked like the real thing. Difficult to imitate a GI.  When I was here before Zippos, along
with lots of war memorabilia, was everywhere.  US Missing in Action reps put a stop to selling
Dog Tags but a lot of the other stuff still exists…like any war.
My umbrella saved the day and made it a pleasant walk in the rain.  The temperature was
ideal…just wet.   This neighborhood in Central District 1 Saigon is within walking distance of
pretty much all of downtown Saigon and points of interest.  A taxi anywhere is at the most
$2.50.  Tonight the “LePub” drew me in for Happy Hour.  It was quite busy.  I sat alone and
read my Vietnamese news propaganda sheet while sucking down a couple Saigon beers
before venturing out to explore more of this wonderful vibrant area.  It had been raining
all day and finally stopped.  I went down a back alley and over to a part of the “hood” I have
not been to.  There are a lot of Xpats here in Guest Houses and hotels.  
I passed a place called Pearl Garden with a Vietnamese fairy Queen gesturing with his hands
and exclaiming in a high pitched sing song voice…oh honey you have to try this…or
something on that order.  He did catch my attention but I wanted to check out my options
so continued around in a circle. When I got back to Pearl Garden I walked in and was
surrounded by people pulling out my chair, handing me a menu, offering to get me a drink,
bringing me a glass of tea, setting up my table like I was going to be there for three days!  I
was overwhelmed.  I asked my waiter where the toilet was and he grabbed my arm and
helped me out of my chair then escorted me down the hall to the Men’s room and opened the
door for me.  I thought he was going to come in and shake it off after! I had a beer and some
Sweet and Sour BBQ Pork Ribs then left.  I thought the “Greeter” was going to kiss me
goodbye!  He had hugged all the guys leaving and shook the ladies hands. My waiter came
out to bid me goodbye and requested I return again.  All for $4 worth of business.  No wonder
everyone likes Vietnam. 
I ventured back to a little joint I noticed in my travels for a night cap.  It was called “Bread
and Butter”  It had 8 seats at the bar, one table of 4 and one of 2.  It was full of Aussies .  They
were all business men, and all eating.  The food looked great.  Nothing over $5 and portions
were gigantic.  All beef was advertised as imported.  Imported from where…Cambodia?    I
had a Nuda Vietnamese beer brewed in Hue the Danish Way…whatever that means.  It was
the only beer they served.  The menu said …to quote Frank Zappa:  “Every country needs a
beer and an airline.  A good football team and some nuclear weapons help to buy beer is
most important?”  I thought the bartender/owner was Australian until my hearing aide
kicked in and I heard him say something about the Mayor of Baltimore being Irish.  I  asked
if he was from there and he was.  We introduced each other and I told him I was originally
from upstate NY and had living in Phoenix for 30 years.  Dan told me to come back tomorrow
night because his fill in Barmaid, Liza, was from Syracuse.  I will have to make last call after
O’Brian’s and the Xu Bar with the InterNation group.  I better get some sleep so I can meet
Minh tomorrow if it isn’t raining.
    Today I couldn’t find anyone that spoke English  INTERNET CAFE…not hard to
understand…would you like to see the menu…NO INTERNET CAFE….WiFi?  Yes anywhere
OK….INTERNET CAFE…COMPUTER! ….you want buy computer?….RENT AT INTERNET
CAFE..you wait I get girl…INTERNET CAFE….I am sorry I no understand…ONE HOUR
COMPUTER..PRINT..INTERNET…sorry.  ME TOO…two hours looking and couldn’t find
one…one person directed me up the street..;.the other back down the street.;… I walked a lot
and two hours later I returned to the hotel to get ready for my outing this evening…I’ll leave
early and maybe find an internet cafe downtown. 
When I was here in ’97 I would see a sign…Internet Available…on a house in the window.  
You could knock on the door and the lady would invite you into her living room where her
children would  be watching TV.  The dog would greet you wagging his tail and the lady
would bring you a Coke on ice while you were checking for email.  That was for 50 cents.
 Vietnam now has 38% of the country on the internet at anyone given time! It is the fastest
growing internet user in Asia and I can’t find an Internet cafe to print out my Airline ticket.
I left the hotel  early to try and find an internet cafe.  I first went on line before leaving to see
the different listings in Saigon.  When I was in Hoi An…they were up and down the street.
 The Cafe’s were mostly gaming rooms for internet players but still offer access to the internet
and a printer.  I was surprised to find only 3 listings in all of Saigon.  Two were right around
the corner and the other in a different district.  One was the Cafe I visited earlier that had no
connection.  The other , when I ventured out to locate it, no longer existed. 
I passed the Bread and Butter bar and restaurant and remembered the lady who was working
was from Syracuse so I popped in and said excuse me, are you from Syracuse…and she replied…Wow do I know you…who are you!!!!    I explained that Dan, the other bartender from Baltimore, told me you would be here so , as a fellow New Yorker I just wanted to say hi before I left for downtown.   I agreed to stop in that night or next day for lunch depending on what happened and bid goodbye.
I was traveling back to the first Internet Cafe to see if I couldn’t connect this time, when I saw
another small place with four computers and one was open.  I jumped on it and printed out
my new InterNations Albatross membership that was supposed to entitle me to a free drink
and free admission to our Happy Hour get together.  I also printed out my revised Airline
ticket on SouthWest from  LA to Phoenix.  
That done, I took a cab to O’Brians for a quick cup of soup and a beer before entering the  
Xu Bar to  meet the members of InterNations that lived in Saigon.   There weren’t many  
people there , just a few Expats in the corner discussing late night TV Hosts.  I paid and
walked over to the Xu Bar …very yuppie upscale place that really didn’t offer much other
than high  price drinks. 
When I arrived at Xu, Isabell , the hostess, greeted me and questioned the fact that I didn’t
live in Saigon.  I told her I used to and was visiting and as an international I felt InterNations
was a group I wanted to belong to and promptly showed her my newly printed receipt for
the Albatross Membership.  She then gave me a name tag and with no seats at the table
available I sat at the table nearby with a backpack in the other seat to converse with.  
Eventually, Elsa from Lyon France showed up and the backpack was removed to allow her
a place to sit.  She was very gracious and friendly.   Elsa had lived in Saigon for 9 years and
worked for an Export company called M-Power Group out of Singapore.  She owned a home
in Gia Dinh near the airport and traveled a lot to Dubai , NYC and other world capitals.  She
maintained an apartment in Paris. She said it was the only quiet place she felt at home.  
Saigon is constant stress with noise and your mind has to be alert all the time.  After two
glasses of wine, at $10 a piece,I left to return to OBriens in hopes of seeing Bernard. I thought
there would be more Americans at the Happy Hour.  I know 12 were registered members. 
  Bernard’s wife was filling in for him, while he remained home.  I just had a quick beer then
left and negotiated a 30000 dong taxi return, or $1.50.  This is getting better and better.  
I know that if they use the meter it is $1. 
When I read the membership roster of InterNations, one of the Americans was from
Syracuse and I thought was the Liza, the barmaid at the Bread and Butter.  I asked her when
I returned and  though she lived there for 9 months, she never heard of the group.  It would
not have been her cup of tea anyway.  She was a working class bartender/cook and restaurant
manager like me, not a corporate climb the ladder mover and shaker.  I received an email the
next day from Isabelle with pics of the Happy Hour…they must have waited until I left.
Didn’t want to give a bad impression of their group.
When I arrived in Vietnam I commented on how vibrant and alive it was.  It is , but I can now
see that it will take its toll on anyone that stays here for any length of time.  The Expats meet
on a rooftop swimming pool every Saturday to get away and relax from their daily grind.  Yes
they are  young and can handle it.  Me…no way.  I know why Shangri La in New River has
such an allure for me…it is quiet and peaceful.  My retreat to get renewed.  
 There is a job in Saigon for my love and friend Marjorie…teaching swimming to blind
Vietnamese.   No pay but she would love it.   
 Today I had breakfast and returned to the room after dropping off my laundry.  I didn’t
leave until around 1pm and walked for 5 hours. I stopped at the Cyclo area where Minh is
supposed to hang out.  I showed his picture again and this time one of them said he no longer
has a Cyclo but is offering services as a Motor Bike driver.  I knew he didn’t want to ride a
bicycle all his life.  He said it was too hard.  I gave the man my card and asked if he would
pass it to Minh.  He immediately replied…you give me money!  I offered him 15000 and he
demanded 100000 so I ended up giving him 50000 to invite Minh to my hotel the next
morning. 
  I then went on to stop at the War Museum.  I had been there before and there was nothing
of interest then or now except it was housed in a new building.  You see a lot of Americans on
a tour or in groups that are Vets .   You can’t help but try and see if you might recognize some
43 years later.    
    I walked by the Palace in my old neighborhood.  I remember in ’67 a parade celebrating the
“free election of President Thieu and Vice President Ky”.  Ky ended up owning a restaurant in
L.A. after the war. The parade had soldiers marching down the main street in front of the
Palace and jet planes flying overhead.  I took pictures then and today.  It was the same street
and Palace that was in every news broadcast when a North Vietnamese tank crashed the
gate (on your right in the picture) at the entrance and drove right up the steps of the Palace
during 


their Saigon arrival and take over of the city.  We had     
 been evacuating last minute personnel from the Embassy Rooftop down the street.
I walked over to the street I lived on when I first arrived in Saigon.  Some of the old villas
were still standing but not mine.  It was a plaza.  I walked and walked right off the map before
circling  back toward the center again.
   I stopped by a street vendor cooking a cake in a cup.  She would heat it up, pour the batter
around the edges of the inside and then put a lid on it and sit it on a charcoal fire until done.
 She would then add grated fresh coconut to it and put batter in the bottom of another cup
with a lid and cook it.  She would use that for a lid to go on the coconut cup.  Kind of like a
cupcake and excellent!  I also stopped at an exclusive Vietnamese Coffee shop for an
overpriced Latte.   I then took a taxi home to pick up my laundry and finally eat at
“Bread and Butter”…because man cannot live on bread alone!  I had the Australian
Cheeseburger, salad and fries.
Minh never showed up this morning.  I walked over to a new place, Bobby Brewers, that Leif
recommended.  The coffee was excellent.  They have a movie theatre on the 3rd floor that
shows 5 or six movies a day at scheduled times that you can watch while sipping a latte or a
beer.  Pretty good food too and  internet access.
 I stopped at Kim’s for breakfast and to relax and read the paper.  A guy named Jeff sat at the
table next to me and started telling me how in the 90’s he came to Vietnam , met a woman ,
married her and brought her back to Minnesota and now his step son is at the University.
Jeff opened a commodity business selling popcorn all over the world.  He now travels back
and forth to Vietnam and might fly into NYC for one night on the way home to Minnesota to
close a deal.  He is the Vietnam Popcorn King.  I left just after he did.    
   I ventured out and stayed in the neighborhood that evening.  I had a nice seat on the
corner of the GO2 Cafe.  This corner attracts every sales peddler from Sunglasses, DVDs,
Books, etc and shoeshine boys.  Well I decided to have my sandals polished for $1.50 but
this cunning boy comes back after and explains, with his nose held and a nasty look, that my
shoes stink.  He then pulls out these odor eaters and puts one in the sandal and asks me to try
it on.  Does it feel comfortable?  Do you want these?  These sandals have been all I’ve worn
since I left, except on the airplane and 3 days in Sapa, plus all over Europe two summers.
 Well OK..now I’ve been shamed into buying them.   I forgot to ask how much!  He then
glues them on to my sandals and puts them on for me and promptly asked for $8.   I
protested but he was firm so I gave in.   
I stayed there most of Happy Hour then ventured over to Bread and Butter on the way
home.  Had a great lunch at Kim’s.  Never, NEVER put your chopsticks in a bowl like this.
 It looks like incense sticks they burn at a funeral and is considered the ultimate affront.
  Dan , the bartender, had the Australian Tennis Open on TV and there was a tennis pro from
Melbourne watching it.  He has played professional tennis most of his life and traveled to
London to work and live for more than a year.  Nice man.  Also there was a lady from Austin
Texas that was traveling and teaching English.  Another couple , he was a musician from
Long Island that had been in a band in Melbourne and she was from Portland, Oregon…great
fun and then I retired.
   I  got a message from Pius when I got back at 7:30 to meet him at some bar downtown for a
beer at 5pm.  Too late, so I countered with an offer for tomorrow but he is taking a dinner
cruise on the river with his wife. 
 I did nothing today.  I was very fatigued so stayed close to home.   I did have some Bangers
and Mash at Bread and Butter.  The Danish Tennis player that Leif was  on assignment to
cover for his magazine, won very easily and may end up winning the Women’s Tennis Open.
When she won she paraded around a little waving to the fans and there was Leif with his
camera , along with a few other photographers that actually sit right on the sidelines. 
I watched a movie in the room and got a good night’s rest.  This morning I still felt stiff and
aches so decided to work it out.  I wasn’t tired to took right off for the day.  I had my usua
Latte at Bobby Brewers then started walking.  6 hours later I arrived back home.  I walked
to the Cathedral where I celebrated Mass on Christmas Day in 1967.  They had a Mass for
Nuns only and some weddings scheduled for the day.
 I went across to the Post Office to see about mailing a package tomorrow…no problem.  If I
had known they were open on Sunday I would have mailed it today.  I then walked to the Zoo
and did take the little train that could around the park.  It was a bad zoo in ’97 but had
improved considerably.  There were no animals out except us humans as it was now
afternoon and HOT.  There were a lot of families and groups of children having picnics and
enjoying the day.  When I was there in ’97 they had a controversial  Merry Go Round that
had stuffed animals you would ride.  Like a stuffed Bengal Tiger or Lion…it was weird but
shut down then and soon after was removed.  Smart people were having a siesta, including
city workers that take their bed to work. 
 I walked around a little and saw a live, one man balancing act with music that was quite
impressive and entertaining then left for the River area. 
   I used to ride guard on the supply trucks that would go into Saigon at night to the wharf
and pick up equipment and supplies.  I did it just so I could see Saigon.  Shortly after, I was
living there and made trips to the docks myself.  When a Captain or Colonel in charge of a
Company or Battalion needed replacement parts or equipment that wasn’t available in
Vietnam yet, they had to requisition it from the States.  A year later , when it arrived, they
were gone so the docks were overloaded with all kinds of tools, parts and equipment that
for the most part was rusting out.  Also, when there was a serious attack like Tet offensive,
supply road leading out of Saigon were closed so food arriving by boat, like apples and
oranges couldn’t get delivered so they would give it away rather than waste it.  I used to pick
up boxes of both and take it to street corners and drop them off.  Both Apples and Oranges
were precious and costly on the market.
  The Saigon port is a major ship building area as well as a busy commercial area.  You can
see the derricks and cranes to load and unload the ships. The skyline has added a few high
rises.  Seven million people now.  
 I sat at a riverside restaurant and had a fruit salad and coffee before going to check out the
prices at the hotel I stayed at in Saigon when I was visiting in ’97.   I passed Apocalypse Now,
a long time favorite Night  Club and got a price list on my old hotel. It went up $10 a night.
 Not too bad. O’Brian’s is closed Sunday afternoon so I had some Beef Carpaccio at the
Refinery and taxied home.
After another shower, I am averaging at least two a day…sometimes three, I went to my
favorite corner GO2 for a couple beers then stopped at Buda’s for a Vietnamese Pork
Pancake.  While eating my dinner outside in the Cafe, the TV was showing Mr Bean.  
Then I heard a girl cry out in glee…Mr Bean …Mr Bean…I fell in love with a fellow fan
of Mr Bean.  Then finished up and retired to my room after a very good day of travel.
Monday brings everything  back to business as usual in Saigon.  I got my bus ticket for my
Saturday departure to Cambodia and the capital of Phnom Penh. I emailed Pius to see if he
was going to be available and ask him where I get hearing aide batteries.    
 The tour guide that sold me the bus ticket hoped I would book a day tour to Cu Chi tunnels.
 I was there in ’67 ,with a friend from my home town, after a brief helicopter  ride we took for
a day adventure.  It was.  We came under mortar attack and had to evacuate back to Saigon
quickly.  
The tunnels are an amazing story but not one I wish to pay money to see.  I refuse to buy a
Tee shirt or a hat with a Red Star on it also!  Vietnam just sentenced 5 pro democracy
dissidents to 5 – 13 years in jail for anything from hanging up pro democracy banners, to
writing a blog criticizing government policies.  One was a Harvard graduate who had
occupied a position as lawyer for the government of Vietnam and filed a suit against the US
for some kind of import tax violation. He was an important figure in the government but
stepped on someone’s toes.  I felt guilty for paying $1 to see the war museum…with a photo
of Senator Kerry and accompanying story of him admitting American atrocities within his
own unit in a combat operation.
 Vietnam changed my life as it did many Americans for better or worse.  I do respect and
admire the people and the beauty of the country but I can never support a communist
regime. I’ve seen what I wanted to see and may never return unless the policies and politics
change.  I do recommend everyone should visit this beautiful country and meet it’s special
people at least once.
This evening, after dinner at Kim’s, I decided to hang out in the Street Cafes and read my
magazine.  I visited Bobby Brewer’s first . This man next to me, answered his cell phone.  
The guy wouldn’t move and went on and on and on.  I finally called for my bill, paid and left.
  Next I stopped at one of those Expat hangouts near my hotel.  I was quietly sipping my beer
and enjoying my magazine when a man sat at the table next to me and ordered a beer.  I
thought maybe I might strike up an intelligent conversation with someone for a change.  I
haven’t had one in a long time, being a single traveler.  My last was with Dan,the bartender
from Baltimore, at the Bread and Butter and they close Sunday and Monday.  Then along
come two dregs with their beer and join the man.  The one sitting next to me starts coughing
every minute into his hand then wiping it on the tablecloth…ewe!  Check please!  
Back at my old standby, GO2 my waiter pulled out a chair away from the street peddlers and
promptly served me my beer with ice.  I noticed a man dressed in a White Robe, carrying, you
guessed it , a large RED Cross saying Jesus the Messiah.  He was walking in his bare feet
down the middle of the street headed for the busy intersection.  Without moving one way or
the other he parted the traffic like Moses parting the Dead Sea .  There was one of the
beggars with one leg and a crutch coming up on the other side with a cigarette hanging out of
his mouth.  The Messiah walked straight to him and placed his hand on his head.  I was
expecting him to grow another leg but instead he just started laughing and the Messiah , after
giving his blessing , went on his way.  
Reading my magazine again, I was relatively comfortable and getting ready to order another
BEER, when loud rock music started piercing my ear drums.   My waiter was handing me my
second beer and I said NO , give me my bill.  I gave up and returned to my sanctuary at the
hotel with my TV. 
 I’m too long in Saigon. Think I will buy some last minute stuff to mail , visit China town ,
mail my packages and visit one nice restaurant for dinner .  I should  plan my Cambodia trip
too.
I noticed as one building comes down another goes up that is almost twice as high.  This
blocks sunlight and fresh air.  I took a trip down these side street alleys to see how the people
live in Saigon fair.  Very depressing though they don’t seem to mind…I would go nuts as I
need lots of light.  Arizona spoiled me with low humidity and lots of sunshine.
Wow, finally I got back some of my Las Wages in Texas Holdem.  I entered a $12 buy in
tournament on Poker Stars with 180 people from all over the world and came out 2nd…
because the first place player pulled a flush over my Aces and Queen pairs.  Still won over
$450…don’t turn me into the IRS.  It wouldn’t make much difference since I lost about the
same amount this year.  Got to go win some more!
I wish…no more of that. 
   The next afternoon, I decided to walk to a recommended restaurant as one of my treats
before going.  I had the address but not the review.  I just remembered it had been highly
praised.  The sun was disappearing in the cloud cover and blackness was coming over
Saigon…at 4 pm.  I walked and walked with the roar of the motor bikes.  There are few
places in Saigon that you can escape for the constant sound of motor bikes without going
inside an enclosure.  It is like a train going by that never ends.   I arrived at my destination to
discover it was an outdoor street cafe .  It was pretty good size and they were BBQ some
marinated meat that I assume they use in their signature dish as there was so much of it.
There was a steam table with assorted foods from the menu where they assembled food as
ordered.  I had no clue what to order and flagged a taxi that was half around the roundabout.
He cut through everyone to backtrack over to me.  He was the first taxi that used a meter so
the ride cost me $1.50.   I commented about how nice and quiet it was now that I was in his
air conditioned taxi.  He agreed , then laid on the horn at everyone the entire trip.  I miss
Shangri La.   
I had him drop me at Kim’s for my first bad meal…I didn’t even take a photo of it or finish
eating it.  
While I was there, you could hear this beautiful electric guitar melody drifting in from the
streets.  It was haunting and hypnotic.  Then I recognized it as a young blind man that I saw
four days ago strolling the street with his guitar and his sister carrying a battery powered
amp for the music.  I remember thinking , oh yeah some more loud noise…until he started
playing.  Yes you could hear him echoing through the streets and off the buildings but he
was good.  That day he did some quiet jazz and some heavy blues riffs.  A truly talented
artist.  I tried to track his direction when I left to see if he had a CD he might sell, but he
had disappeared .  
 It is only 5pm and I’m in my room watching the news.  I am running out of things to see and
do.It is Thursday, I think.  I leave Saturday and will have to drop laundry.  
Well I loaded up about 10 pounds of “stuff” I have been collecting and taxied off to the Post
Office expecting long lines.  I got my forms and had my list of items with me.  I sat down and
proceeded to start filling out addresses and information.  When I got to the third form, it said
passport number, date of issue.  Now I did make a point of memorizing this so I didn’t need
to carry a passport and to be safe always carry a copy of my passport in my pocket.  I had
neither.  I left my mind back at the hotel with the copy.  
I have three bags of “stuff” that I lug back out onto the street and hail a taxi to return to the
hotel.  On the way, I think I remembered the passport number but still unsure on date of
issue so continue my errand.  I have the driver wait while I ran up 69 stairs and back with my
passport.  It turned out I was right on both the number and the date.  The driver fought the
traffic back.  
I drove Saigon for almost a year.  I had a big Chevy Suburban but their were bikes instead of
Motor bikes and lots of military vehicles.  I wouldn’t want to drive it today.
  When I got back to the Post Office, there was no line and the clerk took me as soon as I
finished the forms.  10 lb at $7  per pound.  I could lug it around for another month and
haul it back but 10 pounds feels like twenty lately.  My last visit 10 pounds felt like 5 but I
was 14 years younger.  Then I bought a big duffel bag and filled it with about 50 pounds worth
of “stuff” and carried it all back. The postal clerk packed it all up for me. I paid and prayed it
would arrive.  My package from Thailand did arrive after one month.  I have one from Laos
and this one left unless I decide to buy Cambodia while I’m there and have that shipped?
I had another restaurant that was recommended to have lunch at but I caught myself
weaving and light headed.  I stopped at an Ice Cream parlor and had a fresh Pineapple
milkshake with some water.  I walked to the address but again…couldn’t find it.  I returned
to my neighborhood and tried a place I had seen before.  I watched the lady chef in an outdoor
kitchen and she knew what she was doing.  I ordered a BBQ meal but didn’t realize the
waitress cooks it at the table for you.  She brought over a portable charcoal fireplace and set
it next to my table.  The chef had all the ingredients prepared for her to cook.  I just drank
beer and ate.  It was wonderful.   Well got to get my laundry to the laundromat for the lady.
  
I returned to my room after dropping the laundry off but was getting bored and decided to
venture out at night for the first time in almost a week.  
I stopped at the Bread and Butter where I met an Irish from Limerick and another from Cork.
 They were both here on two year contracts to teach English.  Imagine the Irish teaching
English.  They were getting paid well and having a good time of it.  Liza from Syracuse was
waiting on tables and Dan was tending bar.  The place was full.  I met a couple of restaurateurs
from Brooklyn that just returned from Siem Reap on their way back to the US after a brief
vacation.  We had a great time.  The round of beers turned into a round of Jameson’s and I
left the party with assurances that I would see them again at Roberta’s in Brooklyn this summer.  
    A few of my avid followers have commented about my rants about food and eating out a
lot .  I don’t have a kitchen so eating out becomes a necessity.  I started cooking when I was
4 years old.  My first real job was in a restaurant at 14.  I have been in the restaurant business
from then until I retired at 58 years old… over 44 years.  While I have to eat out, I try and
make it interesting for myself by trying different foods and trying to keep up with the local
scene wherever I am.  If you notice the photo above, there are flames coming up from the
back of this portable cooker.  She is cooking my meal on an inverted roof tile.  Something else
that never ceases to impress me is the presentation of food and attention to detail whether
I’m in a sidewalk joint or a nice fine dining establishment.  

   Today is my last day in Saigon.  I pick up the laundry, pack, pay up the bill ,
SET THE ALARM, and have my last meal.

Wrong! I thought today was Friday and even though my computer said it was Thursday, I
refused to believe it and had to go out of the hotel and ask someone to be sure.  Now I have
my laundry, am half packed , got my hotel bill and withdrew the payment from the ATM …
with one more day to kill in the town.  Damn…I was all excited to be exciting and now have
to think of something to do for another day that doesn’t include a bar, spending more money,
 or poker. I know…I’ll proof and mail this. Goodbye from  Saigon.

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