Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Saigon so far

Just 10 observations I've made whilst trying to fit being a tourist into my regime of drinking.

1. Saigon has a very distinct perfume. It smells something like stagnant water, rotting fruit, exhaust fumes, aromatic food and rat piss. Obviously its stronger in some areas than others and maybe only a mix of some of the above ingredients. Thankfully the final blend is not that bad and you soon become accustomed to this base smell and and then you can enjoy more the subsequent simpler root scents!

2. There are a lot of rats. This could quite possibly explain the rat piss smell.

3. Rubbish and food scraps are usually just thrown on the 'foot' path and washed onto the street or just tossed into the gutter where later it will all be swept up by hand. This will most definitely explain the rats.
4. The foot path is not a path but a series of paved or concreted platforms at various altitudes and angles for which to park the thousands of scooters.
5. Scooters don't remain just scooters. They are modified and added on to until they turn into all sorts of mad max utilitarian contraptions. Nothing is ever wasted.
6. It is true what they say about having a whole family on a single scoot and the excesses of over burdenment are not to be taken as only an over exagerated cliche. You can see a mountain of rubbish traveling down the street and think it was a truck only to see the front and discover its a moped with a couple of arms holding on which lead back into a plathora of scavenged goods.
7. There is not much music heard and never have i seen any played live. If prodded the taxi driver will sheepishly apply the volume to his music but other places of business outside the car will rarely ever have music playing. Exceptions to the rule are touristy restaurants and rent boys on bikes shaking their rattle shaker things trying to drum Up business. Unless of course, you consider the cacophony of a million different horns and honkers chiming at once a form of instrumentation(i think maybe prostration)!

8. Apart from newbies being very susceptible to being riped off and hence becoming very suspicious and resentful of the peddlers and beggars most of the saigonese are very friendly and will endeavour to speak you language and have some chit chat.

9. I am always surprised by how many people can speak other languages and/or who are trying to learn other languages while being severely under resourced and running a shop at the same time to all hours of the morning.
10. The young kids are amazing and so cheeky. They know better english than a lot of the older folk. They may very well steal off with your bags but they are sure to steel even more smiles.

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