Saigon, they hate us here…

It is the early 1970’s, a young Richard sits on the living room floor watching a live broadcast on TV, it’s the American Draft Board pulling birth dates which will determine who goes to war, his mother sobs quietly behind on the couch. All birthdays assigned to a number 200 or less have to go to war, Richard’s birth date is assigned to the number 195. Richard has one week to report to the recruitment center, eight weeks later he is fighting and killing communists in Vietnam.

Fast-forward forty-five years later and I am traveling with that same Richard back to Vietnam on business, this is my first trip to Saigon and this is Richard’s second trip to what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

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We duck into a small bar, Richard still remembers some of his Vietnamese and orders us a beer. The Waitress asks where are we from. Richard holds up his hand to me and replies, “We are from Canada.” I didn’t say anything at first and just waited. The beers will do the talking.

“They hate us here.” Richard finally said. “They hate all Americans.”

After a few more beers we walk outside, Richard points out some of the sites and places he remembers when this city use to be called Saigon. Richard told me how he use to count his verified kills, he stopped after 22, said it was a stupid insane way of trying to maintain his sanity.

“That park over there.” Richard points. “Spent my last days protecting helicopters as they came flying in like dragonflies air lifting American solders to safety, we left thousands of women and children behind.” Richard pauses for a second. “I’m embarrassed and ashamed to tell these people I’m an American.”

I had to think about that for a while.

The Vietnamese called it the American War, the US called it the Vietnam War and in 1975 the US abandoned the South Vietnamese to end the US involvement in the war that lasted nearly 10 years. North Vietnam troops quickly over took the south and killed and tortured millions.

Today Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is a beautiful place, the people are friendly and a visit here is well worth the effort.

For the next several days and on several occasions people did ask where I was from, I didn’t experience any resentment when I told them I was from the US but at times I continued to keep up the pretense that I was from Canada. Most people just smiled and nodded and nothing more.

Am I ashamed or embarrassed of being an American? I have to think about that for a while…

Ho Chi Minh City is a modern city and although a Communist country it has poised itself ready and able for the 21st century.

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But i like the old, the local and the gritty….

The Food

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Mango salad

Vietnamese Crepes Quảng Hoa (Bánh Xèo Quảng Hòa)

Vietnamese Crepes Quảng Hoa (Bánh Xèo Quảng Hòa)

Fresh spring rolls stacked high

Fresh spring rolls stacked high

Pho soup

Pho soup

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Curbside meal

Curbside meal

Curbside meal

Curbside meal

Market stuff

Market stuff

The Place

One of the oldest hotels, the Grand Hotel

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City Hall

Opera House

Opera House

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Post Office

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Notre Dame Cathedral at night

The People I meet

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Motor Bike vendors

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Waitress

Young girl peddling key-chains
Young girl peddling key-chains, of course i bought one.

Prayer time at the Cathedral

Late night prayer at the Cathedral

Young woman waiting for a taxi.

Young woman waiting for a taxi.

Next a Vietnam wedding…

She thinks i’m a chef…

You got to try this…Dutch Baby or German Pancakes …This puffy pastry kind of thing is usually for breakfast, although I made this at 3 in the afternoon. It is easy to make and so good, add fruit, jam, butter, syrup, smoked fish, just about anything you want, you can’t go wrong and it looks great on the table.

DutchBaby-3 DutchBaby-6 Ingredients: 4 eggs, 1cup of flour, tablespoon of sugar, 1 cup milk, dash of vanilla, cinnamon. Butter a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan and bake at 450 degrees.

So my partner Ms. E thinks I’m some kind of super chef, little does she know I’m just winging it, yeah faking it, no professional education, so we won’t tell her about my shortcomings but i think it has wooed her to my dark side….

For some time now and without my knowledge, Ms. E has been taking pictures (Mobile phone pics) of the meals I/we have prepared and then she posts them on her FB page!!! Hmmm, Well bless her heart… here is a month’s worth of cooking…

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Finally got my visa to Vietnam. Next Saigon…

Stingray, it’s whats for dinner…

One of the local delicacies in Malaysia and SE Asia for that matter is Stingray. Local groceries have them stacked high packed in ice next to the shrimp and fish, but you can get them at any local food court. Stingray-7

I”ll take that one …

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Here we are, this guy cooks a good one. He wraps the stingray pieces in foil with some cabbage and onion, adds his special sauce and bakes it for a few minutes.

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Put a wing piece over rice, oh so good. The meat is white, delicate, and similar to flounder, a little bony so be careful.

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So good …

Christmas in Malaysia

It’s 90 degrees, the Christmas tree glitters in the heat of the night, “White Christmas” is heard whispering from the speakers at one end of the park and as I walk further away to get a better shot of the towers the Muslim Mosque at the other end of the park is blaring a call to prayer. On the week eve of Christmas, I find this very ironic however; it is a wonderful testament to Malaysia in its most earnest attempt to be part of the modern world.

Merry Christmas to all…

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Merry Christmas to you and yours and to all who read or not…