I went down to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City - but all the locals seem to have reverted to calling it Saigon) on Thursday to see the Harvard-affiliated Fulbright program offering courses in economics and law to mid-career Vietnamese professionals. My original plan was to stay in Saigon until Friday evening, so I could have lunch with freelance journalist and food-blogger Graham Holliday of Noodle Pie. Unfortunately, I ended up having to go back to Hanoi early Friday morning because a meeting I had been trying to arrange came through at the last minute for Friday afternoon. Later that day Graham blogged about the great noodles I missed, and succeeded in making me feel really really sorry I had failed to meet him. Oh well. Hopefully he’ll still be in Saigon next time I go. (Photos by Graham Holiday from his NoodlePie blog.)
Friday was definitely one of those days that you wish had been twice as long. On my way back into Hanoi from the airport I ended up sharing a taxi with Duc Huy, who turns out to be a well known Vietnamese American musician. He was performing in a local Hanoi club that evening and invited me to come. I had to meet up with some people for dinner that evening, however, and convinced them to come with me to the club, but we showed up a bit late and I think he may already have performed. But I'm not entirely sure. We sat and watched a Vietnamese pop show for a while, which was interesting. The place was packed with fashionably dressed and coiffed Vietnamese 20–somethings out on the make. These kids are part of the post-war baby boom generation who seem to have no interest in ideology and little interest in history - and look like the same fashionable young clubbers you see from Bangkok to Taipei to Seoul. (Unfortunately cameras weren’t allowed inside.) We saw several acts: one Vietnamese hip-hop performance followed by a series of romantic rock ballads sung by beautiful girls and stylish guys. Couldn't understand a word, of course, but it was interesting to watch the action in the club, where the 20-year-old hormone levels were rather high to put it mildly. A rather cute Vietnamese guy who spoke fluent German but no English tried to pick me up, but we had no common language. Then my friends got bored with the show and dragged me off, so I didn’t have a chance to see if Duc Huy had actually performed yet or not, or find somebody to interpret…
Another person I would have liked to meet was blogger Geordie of OurManinHanoi, who works for an Australian charity, KOTO, which helps Vietnamese street kids. Oh well. Too much to do, too little time. Geordie will be happy to know, however, that I did managed to eat at KOTO’s restaurant before heading to the airport on Saturday.
More later with an attempt at some broader observations about Vietnam.
(Technorati tag: vietnam)