Vietnamese Food and Museums

The plan was to spend a few days in Vietnam, then fly out for a tour of South-East Asia, starting with Cambodia and Angkor Wat for Christmas, then Thailand and Phi Phi Island for New Year’s Eve and then trekking in Laos, and back to Vietnam. So, I spent the first few days recovering from jetlag and soaking up the warmth and sun. Oh, and eating. The food, the food! We went to a Korean barbecue, we ate a lot of seafood, spring rolls, pho soup and so on. The food was really great, and the fruit that one could purchase at the local supermarket were great: mini-bananas, rambutan, mangosteen and dragon fruit are excellent. Also, I’ve found out that I actually really like ripe mango, it’s just the unripe stuff that tastes like soap that I don’t like (unfortunately, that’s the stuff you usually can buy in Poland).

I don't even know the names of half of these :-)

I don’t even know the names of half of these :-)

Of course it turned out that Vietnamese food has one weak point – desserts. There are some desserts that are quite nice, but when we went out to lunch with M’s coworkers we were treated to THE MOST VILE DESSERT IN THE WHOLE WORLD (probably) – Evil Black Jelly. It tasted like, well, jelly made from an industrial solvent (I guess, I never drank industrial solvent, but it would probably taste like this jelly). I don’t know how they manage to eat that stuff.

If evil had a taste, that would be it.

If evil had a taste, that would be it.

We also went to a restaurant that specialised in frogs. The fried frog were quite tasty, but there wasn’t really a lot of meat on their bones, but the restaurant was somewhat funny, because it was festooned with pictures and paintings of cute happy froggies.

I'm a happy happy frog! :-)

I’m a happy happy frog! :-)

We're so cute and adorable! EAT US!

We’re so cute and adorable! EAT US!

Well, except for the one frog which obviously knew what was coming. ­čÖé

OH SHIT THEY"RE GOING TO EAT ME

OH SHIT THEY’RE GOING TO EAT ME

And another fun fact – they love Christmas here in Asia. Unfortunately. I hoped I’ll escape the whole Christmas hooplah by jetting halfway around the globe, but my hopes were quickly dashed. Christmas decorations were present everywhere, in supermarkets, on the streets, in front of our apartment block… (and, as a matter of fact, they are still present in front of our apartment block nearing the end of January, although the Christmas tree was removed. The rest of the decorations are still there, though, and I wonder when they’ll take them off. :-))

You can't run

You can’t run

Who cares about global warming, let's have us SOME LIGHTS! EVERYWHERE!

Who cares about global warming, let’s have us SOME LIGHTS! EVERYWHERE!

They'll probably keep it until February. Or March.

They’ll probably keep it until February. Or March.

Crossing off the list of “fun” stuff to see in Ho Chi Minh City, we have visited the HCMC City Museum (tanks, Hueys and dioramas of Glorious Workers Revolution and fight against the French opressor and American invader) and the Reunification Palace, with NVA tanks on the lawn (not the original tanks which crashed the palace’s gates during the Fall of Saigon, but the same models). It felt, well, a bit like visiting something out of communist Poland. No wonder.

At the HCMC City Museum

At the HCMC City Museum

We're plastic comrades!

We’re plastic comrades!

"The gun used by Comrade Pham Van Tu to protect Comrade Nguyen Thai Son". Hm.

“The gun used by Comrade Pham Van Tu to protect Comrade Nguyen Thai Son”. Hm.

Get to the chopper!

Get to the chopper!

It looks even more suffocating on the inside

It looks even more suffocating on the inside

"Please remember who pwnd whom"

“Please remember who pwnd whom”

Red velvet and yellow stars and hammers and sickles

Red velvet and yellow stars and hammers and sickles

Visiting the War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the “Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes”, later “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression”, now War Remnants Museum) was deferred for later, since visiting two museums in one day overloaded my propaganda fuses severely.

Some Assembly Required

“I hereby move to open the general assembly of shareholders in the Jonathan Maindel personal company. For administrative purposes, please state your name, provenance and share percentage, along with the function.”

“Jonathan Maindel, biological founder of the PC, date of birth 21st of May 2021, fourty one percent of the vote, chairman.”

“Jay-Em Prime, nee Jonathan X2051, uploaded consciousness based on the gamma-grade model of Jonathan Maindel’s mind created in February of 2051, twenty two point five percent of the vote, treasurer.”

“Morality Eigenvector, nee Jonathan X2071, uploaded consciousness based on delta-grade snapshot of Jonathan Maindel’s mind created on 21st of October 2077, twenty nine percent of the vote.”

“Eyrie Jane, an emancipated copy of a mindmeld between Jay-Em Prime and Varied&Quirky, an independent epsilon-grade Artificial Intelligence, seven point five percent of the vote.”

Arrival in Vietnam

The general background for this series of entries is that somewhere in the late spring I was approached by a friend, who shall heretofore be referred as M., with an offer to join her in Vietnam for the duration of the winter. Her company intended to send her over to Ho Chi Minh City (the City Formerly Known As Saigon) for a few months and maybe I’d care to join her and her friend, Z.?

Hell yes I would, it’s sunshine and warmth instead of darkness and cold. So I’ve found a flatmate to cater to my cats’ whims for the period I would be gone and awaited news on when we would go.

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy and the planned 4 months underwent sudden attrition to one and a half, leaving on 17th of December and returning, provisionally, on the 30th of January.

Still, I’ve packed my bags: laptop, waterproof smartphone, HD camera with a diving enclosure, rooted e-ink reader with Android, assorted cables and power supplies, sunscreen and DEET. Also, some clothes and melatonin pills for jetlag.

We booked a flight with Vietnam Airlines, from Frankfurt, with a connecting LOT flight from Warsaw Ok─Öcie. Our connecting flight was scheduled to leave at 6 in the morning, so I’ve decided not to go to sleep at all, in order to be tired and sleep in the plane, to facilitate adjustment to the new time zone.

Ten hours in a plane, even in deluxe economy class, with slightly more space for legs were not exactly fun, but the service was good┬áand for in-flight entertainment we had an earphone splitter and M’s earphones had a socket for daisy-chaining, so we managed to watch Page Eight on my laptop. It’s quite a nice spy movie and I recommend it to anyone who likes the genre. I even managed to get some sleep, which is recommended on eastbound flights to minimise jetlag (with a 6 hours time zone change it is difficult to avoid jetlag altogether).┬áWe’ve finally arrived at 8 AM, local time (2 AM in Poland).

Saigon from the air

Saigon from the air

When the plane was taxiing from the runway the first things I’ve noticed were Mi-8 helicopters and prefabricated concrete walls which look exactly like the ones around old communist structures in Poland. I guess the design in both cases came from the same place.

Buying a visa took us over half an hour, because the immigration officers were obviously not in a hurry, and as a matter of of fact waiting for the visas made me think fondly of the Polish Post Office. Nobody looked through our luggage, which was probably a good thing, since the melatonin pills I bought (small, nondescript white pills) came in a giant plastic container which was mostly empty, so I transferred them to a small plastic baggie. In retrospect, that might not be the smartest move, I decided while waiting at the customs.

At the airport, we were greeted by sunshine and palms! Sunshine! And palms! Adding some more exclamation points would even better reflect my mood at the moment – it was warm and sunny, and it was December! I was grinning like a slightly sleep-deprived madman.

Warmth, palms and sun

Warmth, palms and sun

I should have done this a long time ago, I’ve decided.

We were met by two girls from the local branch of the company M. works at, Mio and Nat, and they drove us (well, a taxi driver drove us) to our apartment in the 7th district of HCMC, which was like half an hour drive. There were swarms of scooters flocking on the streets, and communist propaganda posters everywhere, but also markets, boutiques, KFC and McDonalds, and of course, billboards and advertisements were everywhere. Poland is marred by an exceedingly large amount of billboards and outdoor advertising, but in comparison to Vietnam, we’re toned down and stately.

In .vn, scooters flock

In .vn, scooters flock

Propaganda banners are everywhere

Propaganda banners are everywhere

Our apartment at the 5th floor turned out to be more like on the 10th floor, since all apartments in the block are two story high. There was, of course, no elevator. Walking up the stairs is healthy. There was wifi in our apartment, although with time, it turned out that the connection is… slightly buggy at times.

And it turned out the air conditioning unit in my room does not work. Which I completely didn’t mind. Some remarks were made concerning my lizard heritage, but I ignored them as the low-brow comments they were. It was warm! Thirty degrees and sunny – I was in heaven.

So we went out to eat some phood. I mean, food. Pho24 is the local more or less fast-food chains which serves pho soup and it was excellent. And the complimentary desserts were also quite nice, which, as it turned out later, we should not have taken for granted.

Oh, and we all went to sleep somewhere past noon. Just to catch a nap, you understand.

This might have been an error.