Sunday, December 23, 2007

Images from Vietnam

The boat ride

I like the name Saigon even though the city has been renamed to Ho Chi Minh City. Its like with Ho Chi Minh City some of the romanticism and mysticism of the city is lost. So all further references to the city will be Saigon. The traffic here needs to be seen to be believed. For a long time, I thought that the order in chaos concept was an Indian specialty until I came to Saigon. For a city of 8 million people, there are 3 million two-wheelers. We set off for a dinner-cum-boat cruise on the Saigon river. We are shown to our tables by waiters dressed in their navy best. We settle down and place our orders.

The boat sets off at 8:30pm for the cruise and we look around to see a scraggy coastline with cranes and loading docks. We look up to see a smog filled sky and one would be hard-pressed to find a starry sky. Suddenly there is an unusually loud rendition of Jingle bells which leaves half the crowd clapping and singing along with the other half bored out of their skins. On completion, they hurriedly clear the stage and a woman steps up. Her wardrobe did not leave too much to the imagination although I did think she was unusually well-endowed before my friend pointed out that they did not look real. I shrugged my shoulders thinking they look real enough to me and suddenly the sound-track of the first song started and I jumped out of my skin. All of a sudden, in Saigon, on a river boat cruise, to listen to the title song of Har dil jo pyaar karega. We were all thrown violently and burst out laughing. It was almost shocking to hear a bollywood song on a boat in Vietnam with an exotic dancer gyrating and thrusting to it. Life I tell you!

The bawdy cabbie

We hail the first cab we see at Tan Son Nhat International airport. We ask the cab driver as to how much will it cost us to Elios Hotel and he says- "Each person USD 3". We tell him that that is expensive and he conjures up a fake solemn face and says he is very poor and bursts into a chuckle. We decide on a price and set out for the hotel. He seems to be in an unusually chirpy mood and asks me if I am there on my honeymoon. I look at my traveling companions behind me and say sarcastically that yes I am on my honeymoon with two other women and as to how tiring this trip is going to be. He retorts as to how lucky I am and the ladies behind roll their eyes with a "You wish" expression. I decide to put a stop to this line of discussion when we start discussing basic Vietnamese words and I ask him as to what is it for I want to buy and he translates it into "I want to buy a woman" and guffaws loudly. It seems like a business model he has executed before and was hoping to replicate. All throught the trip references of buying and costs involved tapered into conversations that ended in bed. He points to a small girl and grins toothily saying "Poor people". Feels a little weird for 3 Indians to be shown poverty like it is some sort of novelty. We reach the hotel and he says to me that he might be interested in some 4-way action and I say thanks for the ride and Tam-be-eet!

Tam-be-eet- Vietnamese for Goodbye!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time to take off

I am off on my first substantial jaunt tomorrow. Over the next 17 days, I will be going to

Singapore -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Hanoi -> Singapore -> Chennai -> Singapore -> Sydney

Lets hope this is the start of many more such journeys. Next post about the travel!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


He walks down the road. There are about 6-7 of them walking in his direction. He sees them walk with a swagger that is characteristic of their age these days. They harass another couple in front of him and startle them. He reaches them with an air of nonchalance and one of them makes a gesture to startle him. He looks at him as if he was observing an animal at the zoo- with a curiosity and steady gaze. He continues walking when they taunt him saying-"what you looking at?" He does not deem to respond to the taunts of a bunch of 15-17 year olds however he is also mindful of the fact that he is heavily outnumbered. So he continues walking.

One of the boys follows him with his football. He keeps walking with a quickening of his pulse, he wants to turn around and take the punk out but he knows that if he went down, with 6-7 of them it would be ugly. So it made sense to avoid this and suddenly he sees the foot ball fly by a few inches from him. It falls down at his feet. He stops and looks at the ball and then looks up to face the boy. In a different life, he would have loved to get into a real fight but this was not going to go that way. The boy picks the ball up, he gives the boy a look-over and turns around and walks. The boy follows him for a while before turning around and joins his group.

He feels a despairing fatigue come over him. There is a helpless feeling and yet it also feels so good to have that violent feeling. Now if only he could vent it!