Of a cheeseburger. And Beautiful SGN Love in a Day. (huge day and post, grab a coffee or beer or tea or whatevs :)
War and other Museums, boutiques, markets, parks, family spa zone, storms, skyscrapers, bia hoi (fresh beer), night rager , magical date night, amazing . . .
I’ll finish yesterday’s post now, picking up w/ a pick up by Taxi for a short but late flight to SGN (21:50 depart). This is the local, bus w/ wings, I’ve never seen as many peeps on a 737, just stacked, and mostly families w/ kids (?).
Before we go and after we are settled at the airport a bit I mow some surprisingly awesome and inexpensive Pho. Then, it happens. I see a burger king. It’s $1.50 for a double cheeseburger . . . I’m in. And yeah, it’s insane. So good. I have no idea the mix, it just as well could have been gross or whatever. We’ve made tiny forays into western food but for the most part just been on a black/white NO program. It costs more and is less nutritious so why? And besides we’ve had/have decades to eat it. But this little slice of americana poison death just tastes so damn good, I think I’m eating americana more than a cheeseburger, and yeah it’s novel and freaking rad!! Oh, we love what is different, and now a cheeseburger is different. And I’m sorry at a core level a cheeseburger is damn awesome. It is freaking Bahn Mi in a slightly different form factor. It is Nasi Goreng in a different form factor. It is synonymous w/ American imperialism and fatness and evil on so many levels . . . which is sad. Because it is awesome, and just as nutritious if/when done right as a bowl of pho or a plate of nasi goreng, etc., etc. All about the ingredients and preparation and freshness, blah, blah.
We land 11pm, the crew is torched but carries on. Megan has dialed the on the ground logistics beautifully however. The bags show up, we see our guy/sign/taxi to our guesthouse. Random but we don’t exchange 2 grunts worth with this guy. He is on the late shift, so are we. It’s ok, it works. His car is falling apart in an insane way I can’t describe that rattles my brain, but the trip is short.
At 11:45 we amble down a lane w/ all bags, we are per usual in backpackers zone. Smoke and bars and the street is going off. But it is oddly walkable which is rad, we are in a side alley kinda place. Real estate is so precious in vietnam, and nowhere moreso than SGN, that all is vert. I think our guesthouse has the footprint of our walk in closet at home, and 6 stories / 18 rooms. The mad efficiency is inspiring, actually. And if you don’t mind stairs (we don’t), it’s all good. Lifts (elevators) are not in effect, that would take too much room. We will climb 5 stories up and down, all good.
Midnight, our room is clean and spartan as advertised. And all bed. We are not all in one bed, but we are kinda. It’s cool, but I decide to peel out and see SGN after midnight. Yeah, it’s still nuts. This is where Will and I landed 15 years ago. My first real taste of non-western/Asia. I remember sitting at the foot of a bed and railing a huge cold bottle of beer, at an hour I had no idea. I actually think we were staying in a much more spacious and nicer place than I am w/ my fam. It was different, a month w/ my buddy and we had money to burn both single and on our way up the $$ ladder. We weren’t starving backpackers so to speak, just travelers trying to do it on a budget and w/ style for the best experience. Should have done more of all of it. Lessons.
My SE Asia street food days are numbered, I head out in the alleys at midnight. Note: DO drop the pickled garlic cloves from the condiment bar in your Pho of choice, just do it. If there is pickled garlic clove in the condiment tray, and huge plates of herbs and veggies to put in your soup, just do it. Don’t stress about the next day, the next month, the next year, just do it. Dive in. Explore and explode.
Aili and I wake up first, of course. Always. It is crazy. No matter where we are, this is the program. Home Truckee or wherever no matter any sleep dynamics or locations or variables, always. Why?
It’s cool, we are in tent/fam camping zone in this tiny room all mattress, and we chill. Sort of, struggling AC and fan and blah blah its just hot but whatever we know how to roll. I always use the kids to figure it out . . . sometimes they have nighties/pj’s on and a sheet and a blanket, sometimes just a sheet, sometimes just their nightie, sometimes stripped of that and just laying out — we’ve all learned this, how to sleep 80F+? — I don’t know. When I see the kids w/ no covers and nighties pulled up to their heads, that is when I know it’s a hot night.
Bfast is included and awesome if simple, fine for us. Eggs? done. The bread / rolls are insane, really, in Vietnam. Megan and I are sort of not big bread/gluten avoidance peeps but making some exceptions of course. Rice is rad base, but an rad french roll is a mad french roll!. Homemade guava jam and amazing coffee. We eat in a garage / dining room / kitchen kind of thing on the ground floor, economy of space. Cool.
The kids are stoked to take it chill in our room. All good. We are so advanced now, I think. We know how to put ourselves in the right tomb/cave/community/ protected vibe set up. So Megan and I roll out. 2 hours we tell the kids. All good. We mission the war museum (yeah, still pretty mind blowing on all fronts, regardless of your political / belief system or whatevs) and Remembrance Palace and a couple of the more famous markets and the waterfront and Megan I cover SO much more ground on foot solo and all that just an amazing “walk” for us, so different w/out the kids. Oh yeah, we stumble into the $7 yoga mat for me. Rad. Done. Megan dropped $20 on something like this in Indo. The random cost of things in different places and spreads and whatever just continues to blow me away.
My overwhelming sense for SGN is really about very livable, and walkable. A city in balance in a good way. Cool. I love that from block to block I am world class boutique to street zone to wild market . . . smart, value, all on display. Bahn Mi sandwiches http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahn_mi so comedy they are 13000 dong (60 cents). And so delicious. All the rage in SF and w/ the american foodie scene. We grab and go for the kids for lunch, fill in banh bao pork dumpling/steamed buns stuffed with pork/egg/filling insanity.
I cool down from the 42C day a bit and do some work then back out on a solo mission for some logistics dialing and what not and work. All good and fun, and snag a XE OM cuz hey when in motorbike city, you gotta get on a motorbike right? More on this to come but I’m blown away at how “civilized” the city is, really — trending more towards Bangkok than what I saw 15 years ago — so much more infrastructure in place and some really smart planning. And we all post up for $1 pedicures across from our hotel! Fun. Never had one. We are sort of in a all you can eat spa zone, mani, pedi, paint, massage, whatever. It’s just fun w/ the four of us and 3 ladies loving the blond girls (if not the dude/patron on the side!!).
I do some cafe time and write. Love it. So many smart and wired peeps in this country. Not the friendliest, but dialed and fair. VERY colorful practitioners of the oldest profession are all over me on the street. Seen it across our trip when I am solo but this is intense. Find the right balance of music and vibe and view and travel muse.
I head back to the crib as the plan is to get high as a family. The Bitexo tower. 6pm for fun. It starts nuking rain and we power through to get there, whatevs. It’s kind of goony but it’s rad. This thing really is a space ship. 3x anything around it, all about relief. Like if there was an empire state building and NOTHING else in manhattan higher than 6 stories or something. Relief. We end up skuzzing through the nice “resto” because no kids in the bar and deck is out w/ the rain insanity. These guys are all about separating us from our money for a view and we play the game — we “pay” a banana split for the kids dessert and it really is amazing.
The rain backs off and we roll back, it creates actually amazing images and atmosphere. 100% humidity and steam imbued with street food and peeps and we are wearing this city now! We put the kids down and we are out.
We find the Bia Hoi (fresh beer) — spot — it is about 40 cents for a huge mug of amazing beer. We are sitting by 8pm and things are empty around us and we don’t care. We toast our zone, Megan has done an amazing job dialing in Mekong tour for the next day, and chill. Then, it’s like a stadium fills up around us. For real. And awesome. We spend hours drinking these amazing beers and chatting w/ locals and travelers we are sitting on top of each other but oddly comfortable. How about some snacks of hard boiled quail eggs and peanuts. Cool. Out interactions w/ the locals and travelers and each other are really magic. 2 hours later we pay a bill, not kidding, of $2.50 (equivalent). 4 beers, 10 quail eggs, and a plate of peanuts. We check our kids, we buy a street food buffet, we go the rooftop and dine on amazing food. It’s incredibly romantic, if I do say. Which is to say romantic does not equal $$ on an absolute basis. It equals experience, unique and good. Sometimes that aligns with big $$, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
We sleep again in a hot zone, 4 people vs. a struggling AC unit. I’ve figured out some optimizations but on a core level I don’t care. Sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it’s cold and the skill is to adapt within reason when paying $7/head . . . not GRIND. The grind comes when you are paying hundreds a night for something and it is not “perfect” in some way shape or form.
This is a magical day.