Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Welcome to the BIG city

Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, was like nothing we could ever imagine. Tree lined boulevards encase the surviving old neighborhoods, and are totally absent and replaced with skyscrapers in the new ones. Everything is steamy, unlike anything or any place. My diving watch steamed up, so we could only know the time if we could stand in air con. We ducked into any place with shade. We carried and drained bottle after bottle of water. We wilted.

The amazing thing about being so hot, is that you are forced to slow down. Take in the details. Appreciate things that you would ordinarily breeze past.

We loved the light throughout the day. Balanced in the early morning, and again in the early evening. It was light at six and then dark at six. The evenings were cooler, and our most leisurely time. We learned how to ride in cabs armed with pleases, thank you's, and google maps on the iPhone.

We stumbled through the Cholon district, chinatown, almost forgetting we were still in Vietnam. Apothecaries, dragon and lion costumes, and Chinese noodles reminded us of home.


"Sometimes, less is more", does not fly in Saigon. The food has layer after layer of flavor. Colored lights bathe everything from hotels to sacred Buddhas. Flowers are dyed, sprayed, and then dipped in glitter. The whole city sparkles through the emanating heat.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finding Moments

Sometimes in the heat of the day, and it is hot here, we seek refuge in a pagoda or temple. We all keep our eyes peeled for red and yellow, ornate doors and arches.




There is always a hush in the air, a sweet smell of incense, and usually a friendly caretaker, eager to show us around.


Everything slows as we taken in the different alters.



We marvel at the rituals.

And our eyes fill with smoke and tears.


Each town, a different interpretation. Each candle lit for luck and loved ones.


And then we walk into the room of a thousand Buddhas. Every nook in the wall houses a Buddha. Every petal of the lotus flower upon which the large Buddha sits contains another small Buddha. The focus of everything is inward, reflective.

Off to the side a monk chants and rings a giant singing bowl. The sounds of the outside city completely disappear.


Sunday, April 14, 2013


We are passed from hand to hand. So many sisters, mothers, grandmothers, all wanting to touch a cheek or a lock of hair for luck. The men are somewhere else, building a new road, driving a taxi, sleeping in a hammock somewhere. The women are the face of this country. They rise early, we never seem to beat them, no matter how early we wake. They sweep, cook, wash, sell all morning until the afternoon heat forces everyone to return home and refuel.


Sandalwood to burn for good luck, keeping away sickness, and sweetening the air.

Fresh veggies, herbs, mushrooms, even baby ducklings, sell quickly on Sundays.


A whole street where all that is sold are noodles of all different shapes, sizes, flavors, and textures.





No one is in too much of a hurry. There is always time for a cold glass of che!


Grandmothers make sweet black sesame cakes filled with mung beans, wrapped in banana leaf, and steamed until sticky and gooey. Almost better than a chocolate chip cookie.







We are well looked after here. We are well fed here. We feel welcome here.