moonwire

saigon (part 2)

Posted in saigon, vietnam by moonwire on November 7, 2009

My sister left on Monday morning morning and I decided to stay in Saigon just a little bit longer, trying to figure out my next move. Of course, my life of luxury at the Lac Vien VIP room was over, too. Back to Schmutzland. I found a little family run hotel across the street. It isn’t exactly a nice room. It’s far from squeaky clean and it’s got no balcony, just a small window, but the staff is really lovely and makes up for everything else. And oh, it’s cheap — I’m back on the backpackers budget.

I did not do anything special, just walked around several neighbourhoods in hopes of finding something to shoot. There is lots to shoot and yet there isn’t. I didn’t take any breathtaking photos, but I shot a lot, even though it was mostly brightly sunny (and extremely hot) between 8 am and 4.30 pm. It gets dark here, early. By 5.30 pm, the sun sets and at 6 it’s dark.

I did meet Peter Grevstad’s friend, Allyson for drinks and Vietnamese BBQ. Peter lived in Vietnam for 5 years and has been a tremendous source of information (as well as entertainment). It was great meeting her. She took me to some loud place full of locals and the food was exquisite.

Other than that I basically did the same thing. Eat, drink, read, relax, sleep a lot. No touristy things. Just be. And enjoy being here. Vietnam has been absolutely amazing. Especially after Cambodia I’ve become somewhat jaded about seeing ‘new things’ here in the region. Really, wherever you go, you see/hear/smell the same things. Cholera carts, people enjoying food and drinks while sitting on tiny plastic chairs, noise, air pollution, markets, motorbikes. But I must say the Viet people have really made this part of my trip.

Considering the history of this country it is really amazing to see how they are building Vietnam up again. It is chaotic and noisy as hell, but there’s some really good vibes in the air. These people here are friendly, welcoming, gracious and thriving. Things somehow function quite well here. Sure there is poverty, but nothing like I encountered in Cambodia. With the exception of Saigon, I have seen very few beggars, if any. There’s beggars here, and I see the same ones every day.

One of them, Lei (sp?) is a 26 year old guy who lost a leg. Every night he works the streets. I actually ended up having a beer with him at Zoom Cafe and he told me he lost his leg in a motorbike accident. I bump into him all the time, and he always waves at me or comes over to say hello. Does not ask for money, probably because he knows I’ll give him some later at night, when I’ve had a Bia Saigon. Hah!

There’s another one, my sister and I saw him on our first night. A man, could be anywhere between 30 and 50, horribly disfigured; he walks on one side of his foot. The rest of his body is also totally disformed. He wears a hat with a big hole and some of his hair is sticking out. I only saw him one more time. Looking at the condition of his clothes, he most likely has to resort to sleeping on the street. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Also, I haven’t seen the kind of street kids I encountered all the time in Cambodia. But one evening, my sister and I were getting some crepes on the street and this little girl (she looked very small but was probably about 12 years old) who had some sort of Down Syndrome came by to sell us chewing gum. We didn’t need the gum, and I don’t buy from kids on the street, ever. But we offered her a crepe and it was so cute. She started hugging my sister and would not let go. Really endearing. When her crepe was ready, she put it in her bag and continued her way to sell more gum, hugging my sister once again. Wish I had had my camera ready.

So Vietnam has been amazing. Though I don’t have any real outstanding stories, I much enjoyed it here (except for Hoi An). I’m off to Bangkok tomorrow, hoping to get my Myanmar visa there.

I took literally hundreds of photos here and I have not gotten around to processing them all. I’ll post another Saigon photoblog post from Bangkok.

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