10. Rice cakes. Yum. Yum. And YUM! How do they make things taste so delicious here? The secret sauce that you dip just about everything in is water, fish sauce, sugar, lime, red pepper and salt. Try it at home, and dip away. Everything tastes good in this sauce! Especially the rice cakes wrapped in lettuce with basil…
9. Seeing Marjie’s school. It is a big modern school and the kids all obviously love her. It’s refreshing actually how much respect the kids have for the teachers in general. A different culture, for sure. I think this is about as far away from an alternative school as possible! (these boys are from the neighborhood, not the school, it's just a great picture).
8. Sleeping in the castle. My room is the one that has the balcony looking out over the living room. I feel like standing above and calling out for Romeo! Let me just say that Marjie and her roommates Katherine and Tarn are SO lucky to have found this place. Aside from the lack of A/C in this sweltering heat and the continued power outages, it is positively perfect!
7. Learning about music video DVDs! Marjie already blurted out the truth about my secret obsession with George Michael (OK, so it’s not a secret anymore), but I found an ABBA karaoke CD, with real live ABBA footage and the words! Oh, yes, it is THAT FUN! At the post office today I heard the clerk next to my clerk ask his customer if he had CDs or DVDs in his box, because obviously they aren’t legal and he wouldn’t let him claim them. Uh oh, I claimed mine. I hope they make it home in today’s shipment!
6. Spending a day with Nam. This guy is everything Marjie says. He’s positively hilarious but he doesn’t know it. I couldn’t stop giggling all day! He is a little controlling through, and insists on intervening in everything that you do, what you take pictures of, how you eat your lunch, how you clean your hands, etc… Because, obviously he is the Mother around here and He Knows Best.
5. Saigon traffic. Because I’ve been traveling in Asia for over six months, I’m used to crazy traffic but this is something else. At most busy city intersections, there are no traffic signals, but no one stops. Think about that. Check out this video of turning left across a BUSY road…that just about sums it up.
But then you have to learn how to WALK across the street. You’ve seen the video and how it’s done on scooter. But, you have to do the same thing when you are a pedestrian. You walk very slow and deliberately, because there are virtually no crosswalks or frankly rules that protect pedestrians from cars. Once you enter the street, you are on your own. Today I saw a man holding twin babies (maybe 3 months old?) crossing the equivalent of Highway 99 at Greenlake during rush hour. Totally undeniably crazy, but somehow the system just works!
4. Cooking!! You got to read about it on Marjie’s last two blog posts, but it was so fun! Considering that at home cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, and while I’ve been traveling I’ve only had a couple of chances to get in the kitchen. Best about this kind of cooking though was that it was completely unfamiliar to me, and I got to learn a few new techniques.
3. The Bum Bum. This place is TEN TIMES better than I imagined! It’s a tiny little place at first glance, but then you walk up the stairway to heaven. That is where Tran gave me one of the most amazing massages I’ve ever received – for $3. Then, there was the hair-washing. Who even KNEW that this was possible? It’s not only a very thorough 40 minute hair wash/head massage, it’s also a mini-facial, and then a blow dry that beats any blow dry EVER. That was $2.50. The simultaneous manicure/pedicure? $1. In four days, and multiple visits to the Bum Bum, I didn’t spend more than $15. I so wish that there was a Bum Bum with Bum Bum prices in Seattle. I would never need to go anywhere else!
2. The market outside the Castle. This was one of my favorite things about visiting Marjie. Of course, I’ve read all the posts about the market, but imagine having the Pike Place Market WITHOUT tourists right outside your front door? Every morning, the alley ways come alive with at least a hundred vendors selling seafood, vegetables, materials, food (of course!), and just about everything you can imagine. And, the entire neighborhood comes out for it. I learned that Marjie walks through the market almost every day on her way to school and buys breakfast, snack and lunch. There is certainly plenty to choose from, though Marjie definitely has her favorites!
1. The Hammocks on the Roof. So, when you walk up all five flights of stairs to get to the roof you are hot, and ready for a cool beverage and a seat. Lucky for me, the Castle is now a Two Hammock Castlehold! When you are not lying vertically on the roof, if you spin 360 degrees it is like the movie Rear Window. You can peek into other people’s lives like a crazy old voyeur. You spin another direction and you see some of the city’s neon. Spin another direction and you are watching the sun set over Saigon. Magic, I tell you. Magic. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave the roof.
Except to eat, of course.