Here is just a brief update of interesting things in Saigon for the week.
1. Valentine’s Day has caught on in Saigon! The streets were completely jam packed with motorbikes and the pollution was atrocious. Since it was Valentine’s Day I planned to take my girlfriend to the Saigon Town Club for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. My girlfriend working for a horrendous Japanese Travel Agency only had about three hours break and then had to go back to the hotel (see next story) to take care of tourists.
Last weekend we made the move to the dreaded District 4, Saigon, (Ho Chi Minh City), is a pretty safe place compared to other world cities, but among ex-pats, District 4 has always been a place to be avoided. Apparently, in the past it was a major Vietnamese mafia neighborhood. After hearing this, I asked the landlord point blank, if District 4 was still dangerous. He said no because the Mafia boss was exectuted by the government a few years ago.
I write now from the Pham Ngu Lao district in Ho Chi Minh that now is home to Saigon’s only decent “Starbucks-like” cafe. Saigon doesn’t have Starbucks yet but this place is darn close. They have enough selection that even an American would be satisfied although I’m sure the staff won’t understand what a “skinny” latte is, so better take it easy on the coffee jargon.
The day has finally arrived. Tonight at midnight I’m traveling back to Tokyo, stay a couple days and then back to the USA. So today I have been running many errands and trying to get all those loose ends tied up. However, I’m not sure if the moon is not aligned or some cosmic forces can sense my excitement and are playing games with me because nothing is going right today. Or perhaps I have been here too long and my patience with normal Saigon insouciant-ness has simply run out.
Last night my good buddy and roommate packed up his stuff and left Vietnam, perhaps not to return. Axel was the guy I discovered Vietnam with as we both had studied in Tokyo together. He left the language program earlier than I, but we kind of understood that we would probably both see each other again in Vietnam sooner or later. In the August of 2004 I came to Vietnam and about 8 months later he finished up his MBA program and came to do some consulting work for our friend who owns a computer company. He stayed in the room just next to mine and now seeing that room empty, I can’t help but feel a little sad.