What a bastion this restful park was in downtown Saigon when I was there recently. A nirvana of green, calm & Tai chi. A welcome respite from the cacophony of noise and action through-out most of the rest of the city.
Dawn exercises in Saigon
Tai Chi at dawn
A hit of the popular Badminton
Vietnamese Hacky Sack
It was a pleasure to watch the skills of a relaxed group of friends as they played the local Vietnamese version of Hacky Sack known as Jianzi. I watched at a respectful distance although in fairness I also judged it to be a safe distance so as to not be invited to join in. I knew the Vietnamese locals to be very friendly but no one needed to see a large sweaty white person dislocate both knees whilst simultaneously flattening two thirds of the playing group in a Lazarus-like fall.
You know even today Vietnam is still inextricably entwined with the ‘war’ almost 40 years on. Of course its just an opinion & I have only been once but my feeling after a few days in Vietnam is that that Allies were never going to win because of one overwhelming factor. Time. Timepoor populations of timepoor countries watching atrocity in their loungerooms have very little…
No I don’t mean you, I mean the great patience & the laissez-faire attitude of Vietnam’s beautiful people were key to victory then & to your enjoyment now. You see it in their faces.
A stall holder setting up at 5am knowing they are to finish at 6 or 7pm or maybe a lone figure flowing across a tide of traffic that seems to foreign eyes so chaotic & out-of-control but is actually the complete opposite to the locals. Measured & expected. In Vietnam a car or motorcycle horn toot isn’t anger it’s genuine helpfulness. ‘Just letting you know I don’t wish to deposit myself, my scooter & this cargo of chickens into your bottom. Just saying Toot, toot’
Saigon has eight million inhabitants & six million scooters, give or take. In most Western countries (certainly where I’m from) that would also be accompanied by four million daily roadrage incidents. Not in Vietnam. I only heard one ambulance in five days! Ironically however as it raced to attend an accident I was certain it was about to cause another seven on the way. Of course it didn’t, it just works. Tolerance.
I have never seen such contentment, patience & humility in potentially very stressful situations. It’s very humbling & I would love to capture its essence & apply it back in my world. But I wont. I’ll still mutter at the bloke who takes 1 second too long to swipe his train ticket or tisk if there’s a queue to get a beer at the airport lounge. Yes ill go straight back to my first world problems.
From my brief glimpse of this beautiful country my greatest takeout is that in a place of such seeming rush & chaos I can’t actually remember ever feeling less of either.
OK so I am to cooking what Stalin was to liberalism or the show Jackass is to subtlety. I put the ‘ew’ into julienne & if an ingredient can stick to the bottom of a pan then I will make it so.
However friends behold below the unfathomable, the unthinkable, the unbelievable, the…
MIRACLE OF HO CHI MINH CITY! (Saigon)
I am currently in super Saigon for a work conference and one of the activities yesterday was a cooking class. Now just know that I thought cous cous was something that you whispered to a baby before bed. Kitchens and me, well we just haven’t gotten on over the years. That is folks until – the Miracle.
My three course menu. Naysayers eat your words.
To be fair most of my friends would actually much prefer to eat their own words than anything cooked by me. But maybe that may change – see my menu that I prepared, cooked & then avec gusto consumed. If you are dropping by Vietnam (as you do) then make sure you drop by Saigon Cooking Class. (The chef will likely be out of counselling by then.)