Incense (Vietnam #4)

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As I ponder in my eternal wisdom, I realise that I have seen sights and tasted morsels few other mortals perhaps had at my age.

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It’s not only that Vietnam has been quite different from Japan, the pace of my adventures has also certainly changed. Sleeping in until 12 and taking it easy; partly because there isn’t all that much to do in Saigon. Partly because I don’t want to require a vacation to rest by the end of this one.

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As I was preparing to depart on newfound adventures in District 5 (also known as Cholon, or the Chinese District. It’s actually the largest Chinatown in Vietnam, and most probably the source of all the Made in China merchandise in many stores in Australia), my host kidnapped me for some lunch with her, and then we went next door (literally) for some vietnamese coffee (for 10,000 dong; a bargain!).

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Hopped on another neighbours bike for a taxi ride to District 5, immersed in the lack of white people and tourists. The main market was very different from what one finds in District 1’s Ben Thanh: no one tries to sell me stuff, and you can literally get lost within the market. The pathways are so narrow it’s as if making your way through a canopy of people carrying stuff.

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The fountain that the market building surrounded seemed misplaced in such a busy and money oriented environment; the brass dragons would spit their murky waters unattended, as people carrying plates rushed by, yelling their horrible sounding language (I do apologise, but Vietnamese is not the most pleasant noise to the ear, especially since people love shouting it – or better said spitting it).

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Meanwhile, in the capitalist jungle, the concept of “XXL” seemed to be quite devoid of meaning as I searched for an M sized shirt (or rather, throngs of shirts) for Daniel. Upon request, I was provided with three sizes for some “GAP” tank tops: L, XL, XXL. There were no other options. Certainly, I am rather sure these were sizes made for tiny, aboriginal people of the forests of Papua New Guinea, not for real men.

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I slipped away from this nest of ant-people, perpetually rushed and always carrying something two or three times bigger than themselves. As I ventured to find a pagoda I had noticed from the back of the bike taxi, I stopped by another unusual construction for such a place: a fountain. City beautification seemed a much to inappropriate concept for this part of the city.

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The pagoda was strategically position next to a school, the sound of children (or, as Andrew would say, of “dogs in a kennel”) filled the air. The pagoda was beautifully decorated with all sorts of ceramic wonders.

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Now, if temples could get ill, this one would definitely be on packets of smokes, warning others of how a lung with large-cell carcinoma looks like. There were incense sticks all over the place, some as thick as my fist, others in the form of spirals hanging from the ceiling. It was pleasant smelling incense either. “Fire hazard” seemed to scream from every corner of the building.

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Initially, my trip in Vietnam was planned as a cheap way of saving from the many expenses of Japan; but it ended up (partially due to Andrew) into a mixture of cheap, authentic life of District 8 and a more expensive, mostly westernised parade of cocktails and fancy food. Sure, even the expensive version was rather quite cheap, and I didn’t see why I shouldn’t experience here – cause I certainly can’t do so in Melbourne.

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i.d. Cafe is certainly part of the nascent movement of Vietnam to find it’s own modern niche, away from mostly white frequented Alto or other such institutions. And they have good c

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My temptress host then led me to more expensive lifestyle choices, ending up eating in charming Hoa Truc (74 Hai Ba Trung); the chargrilled beef appetisers were great, yet my duck was rather bland.

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I had believed that once I escaped Andrew my life would go back on it’s cheap course, yet I found myself at the Sheraton’s bar with my host and her friend Mark; luckily it seems my charm and good looks got me free drin

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