Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hen gap lai, Vietnam.

Just in time for the last night of my trip, the rain in Ho Chi Minh City finally stopped. I put on a dress and the cute cropped jacket I bought the day before. I stepped out onto Dong Khoi to hire one of the many mototaxis waiting on the street corner for a fare. A friendly young driver agreed to get me to my destination, a restaurant which had been written up in a Bon Appetit Magazine article about good food spots in HCMC. I arranged myself side-saddle on the bike and we took off up Ben Chu'ong (?), along the river. My motormouthed driver took it upon himself to shout everything he knew about the city (in excellent English) as we dodged through the Sunday night two-wheeled traffic. We swung left at the base of Dinh Tien Hoang Street. As we blazed uphill, the wind rushed through my hair and between my freshly pedicured toes. This felt good: I smiled to myself and to the other cheerful people I faced when we stopped at red lights.

My driver buddy found Quan 94 at 94 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, one of a row of small non-descript restaurants specializing in crab dishes. Despite the write-up in Bon Appetit, I definitely stood out in the crowd of local families here. No matter, that doesn't phase me. I ordered 'mein cua xao' and 'cha gio cua bienh' which, as I suspected, turned out to be stirfried noodles with crab and crab spring rolls. The thing about Vietnamese writing is that, unlike with Thai and Khmer script, I actually stand a fighting chance of figuring out what to order from untranslated menus. It's simply a matter of memorizing a few key words of food-related vocabulary. The rolls and noodles were good - more peppery than I was expecting! I felt badly that I couldn't finish my meal but I had already sampled quite a lot of other good grub earlier in the day.

After dinner, I wandered back through town in the direction of my hotel. I went to Reunification Square where the kids go for cuddly motorbike dates, then along busy Le Loi. I considered going into one of the posh bars near the Opera House for a farewell drink. Instead, I enjoyed the slow good bye walk back down Dong Khoi towards the river.

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