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visited 30 states (13.3%)
So, I am coming back.
All has been arranged. Tomorrow a bus will bring me to Bangkok, a night there and then off I go, to Italy first, for a beer-stop at KM-ZERO and then maybe to London, for an interview and a course.
I am on a double mind.
Part of me is willing to go back.
Part of me is not so.
Which one I have to trust?
Today the rain started early in the morning and it is still going on. Likely I will miss my fish bbq for lunch.
In last few weeks I had a few troubles: looks like my body is getting tired, and it signalled it with a minor infection and a major disastrous herpes on my neck. Nothing so serious. A lot of pills to gulp down and that’s it.
Most serious is the aestetic effect.
Like a bunch of shelly fish had had a taste of my neck.
But like the fatal last drop, it broke my last resistance and took me by surprise, and I let myself wandering near the territory of the escape exit.
I pulled the plug with no second thought.
So I bought the flight, fighting the Alitalia fraud system that did not allow me to use a Spanish credit card in Cambodia to buy a flight from Thailand.
But I had the last word at the end, I had to buy the ticket from the UK website, paying with a UK credit card and doing all of this through a US anonymiser server. Geek wisdom is handy sometimes.
Anyway I am sad to leave.
I will continue to write, the road do not just end on that flight I take on Friday. I will continue to go around and talk about it.
Like Xavier De Maistre in his A Journey Around My Room, I will travel the limited borders I will be given in the next future.
But then I will come back to Cambodia, as I have a job to finish.
I am not arrived to Australia yet!
back and forward
back and forward
it wearing out my shoes
Yesterday night I was on my own so I decided to explore and find a decent restaurant for dinner.
I would like someone had written a guide to Saigon’s restaurant which nobody told you about, like the one I bought for Barcelona, Restaurantes de Barcelona donde nunca te han llevado. That guide help me in more than one occasion to find good place and good food. And help me starting moving around Barcelona like a map.
But now I had to do with what I have at hand, and at hand I have the LP. So I decided to see if they were good at food too.
LP afficionados do not struck me as being too much of food lovers.
In the LP under Saigon and in walking distance from my hotel there were two restaurants that got my attention, a thai one, defined as the smallest thai restaurant in town, and an indian one, were I could find a good fish tikka. By chance they were also one in front of the other.
So I put on my best shirt, so to speak (I had just two, the best one is usually the clean one) and went to explore the delicatessen they could offer.
I was not given a chance. Electricity was cut in the street, so the unfortunate customers in both of them were forced to consume their dinner by candle light. Now that’s very suggestive, and romantic if you are sharing your table with a partner, even occasional, but the candle light, I would presume, is not good for cooking as well as it is for eating.
I preferred to wait for a better light.
So I went exploring.
If someone of you has ever come with me for food exploring, they know what I am talking about. In order to search the right place, I am able to walk kilometers, sometime in a circle, just because I DO know there is a restaurant that will suit me better than the one we just passed. It is a long process, if you know place, language and what to expect from a restaurant.
If you do not, like me in Saigon, it will take ages. Or at least a couple of hours.
I did explore every alley around me.
I run away from Queenie and Little Saigon bars where miniskirted girls were too much smiling and too much thin to fulfill the promise of a good dinner.
I passed a couple of ice cream parlour, tempted to start my dinner with the dessert, but kept the address in memory for later on.
I pass the lot of Italian Mexican restaurants promising real pizza and real nachos and Corona for a small mortgage.
The taxi-scooter drivers I think started betting on me. More than one, after a while, instead of proposing me a ride somewhere, just asked if I was lost.
At the end, exhaust from hunger, I decided to change strategy and use the Golden Rule of food quest, slightly modified: when at a lost, eat where truck driver and old people eat. In Saigon it was eat where taxi scooter driver eat.
And that means just one thing: in a food stall by the street.
So I picked one that appear to be the more crowded and set to it to have my dinner. First I was proposed the usual noodles with either beef or chicken, but I was going for fish, having seen a good quantinty of different shell fish.
They had small navajas and a lot of other ones.
I opted for te navajas and a sort of oyster. Both of them to be done bbq.
The bbq was actually a net of a gas stove, so the result was a little weird: the inside was well cooked but the shell was scorched by the flame, so it become crumple.
On the overall, was not a bad choice. They come with a lot of herbs and spice, catalan style.
In one of the best fish restaurant in Barcelona (if you want to know where, I will tell you for a dinner), they teach me that fish need nothing on top. Well, I come from a seaside place too, so it was nothing new, but it is good to be reminded some time.
Also, it give me the opportunity to boast I know one of the best fish restaurant in Barcelona.
Normal restaurant use garlic and spice to cover the fact that fish is not fresh as it should be. Go to some of the tapas place in the barrio gotico and you will see what I am talking about.
So shell fish in Saigon I suspect is more of the type coming from the frezzer than the type coming from the sea.
Anyway I had a good dinner, a little bit too expensive (130 thousand dong, more or less 4 euro, with two beers) considered the fact that it was a stall on the street.
But the atmosphere was fine. A Japanese guy sitting next to me was taken under the good service of the woman running the business, and when he had some problem handling his crab’s “chele”, she took over, and showed him how to open them: she take the chele and actually hammered them on the pavement. Voilà, ready to be eaten.
After that, I went to smoke a sigarette and having some more beers in another street stall, 10.000 dong a Saigon beer.
Tomorrow I will try the thai, or maybe the fish tikka.
I had my first taste of crocodile, my fisrt taste of bassa fish and my very first scube diving.
Major actor in all of this was Mark, one hell of big texan guy running his own dive center in Nha Trang, met through CS. He moved to Vietnam one yer ago (one year, 20 days and a few hours, according to his calendar) and after one year (and the spare) he was quite at home in Nha Trang.
First night with him, we, with a fellow CSer from Zaragoza, Alex, went to a place just near his dive center.
It was a local restaurant and he was a sort of big customer there. The place served everything, or quite. I could not find dog or snacke soup, but the rest was there.
Crocodile, giant shrimps, octopussy, squid, wild boar, wild cat, giant frogs (more toads, in my humble opinion), venison, ostrich, grilled oyster and of course pork and beef.
Crocodile meat had the texture of pork meat, but taste is sweeter. I had it grilled. I do not know why, but I was expecting somethinng fishy. Instead it was like a good filet, and it met also the approval from my fellow diners.
Mark’s friend were a bunch of expat Newzealander, and it come also my second discovery of the night: I always thought of kiwis as sort of English of the down under, reserved and not quite loud. I was wrong.
So, after dinner and a few beers, we went home: Mark was going to take me scuba diving and we were expected to leave at 7 in the morning.
The next night, after the scuba (about it later), we went for another of the Mark’s usual. We were joined by the French friends of Alex and by a couple of Swedish guy we met on the boat in the morning. This time the place was run by an Australian Jew, specialised in bbq. I had my Bassa battere and with chips. Actually fish’n'chips. Complete with mint sauce aside. And the place was called Something Fishy.
The Bassa fish is a sort of cat fish farmed in the Mekong Delta. The consistency is creamy, I think due also to the fact that it was deep fried. The batter was not oily and the mint sauce was the perfect partner. Chips were chips.
I ate mine in a few seconds, maybe hungry from the diving, so that Mark took pity on me and shared part of his crumbled tuna steak.
It seems the speciality of the chef is Australian hambunger, that differs from the traditional hamburger for the fact that it comes with boiled red beetroot on top. It also seems that it got not the success it was hoped.
We finished the night in a one of the vietnamese beer bar, that is a draught tap and a few short stall on the pavement. The beer was Philippine’s San Miguel and it come for 30.000 dong a liter.
I went back to Something Fishy by my own the next day, this time for grilled tuna. Medium rare.
It came with chips too.
Hoa’s place if the kind of place I would like to run if I had a place like this to run.
I would put it in the same class of Don Armando in Tulum, and Evaristo in Playa Blanca in Colombia.
It is in Danang, just on the China Beach, according to LP the rock’n'roll beach of the American during the war.
Hoa’s place is just 50 meters from the beach, and on the back you can see the Marble Montain pagoda.
I went to have a walk down there, to find an ATM, and I found instead a colossal marble buddha, with little buddhas crawling on his shoulder like toddlers!
Hoa’s place is dirty cheap (a basic room comes from around 7US$) and relaxed, it the best place to forget you are in money driven vietnam.
Beer is 10.000 dong, and you can serve yourself from the big fridge in the common area. Just put what you consume in the notebook Hoa put on the till and you will pay when you go. Nobody will check you, so it it left to your honesty to get into the rigth number. And if you cheat, pity on you. Hoa has a take it easy attitude.
Maybe not so his wife.
Dinner is communal, if you want, and it comes for 3.5US$.
And for the price, it comes quite good. Spring rolls (according to one of the poster, Hoa’s wife does the best spring rolls in town), grilled or stewed fish, stir fried meat, lot of vegetables, vegetable curry and the always present noodles and steamed rice.
Breakfast is actually better: mango or banana or bacon pancake, with vietnamese coffee, unfortunately with sweet milk, that is condensed milk.
I had the opportunity to meet Hoa on my last day, apparently he was out on business the days before. He was always sitting on a beach bed under a veranda and always smiling and greeting you. The place was actually run by an assistant and his wife.
Astrid and Simon, the Swiss couple I meet in Mongolia first and then on the train to hanoi, were also there, and with them an Austrian couple too.
We spent the night talking and drinking and smoking, while other guests went back nad forward from the beach, to carry beer for a bonfire.
As I said, the perfect place.