Day 9: Saigon Food Party

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This day was kind of a slow day, but I think we needed a slow day. I know I did. I’m still fighting a head cold and my patience for scooter traffic is wearing thin. No one walks here. If you have to walk somewhere, you ride a scooter. I even saw a man carrying a tray with two bowls of soup, on a scooter. For real? How far are you taking that soup? If that’s not a walking situation, I don’t know if there is one. I love riding but I also like walking places, especially when I’m in a new city. I think Joe and I both like learning about our surroundings that way and so far none of the cities we’ve been to have been particularly pedestrian friendly.  Da Nang is probably the best so far and it’s still not great. I realize I’m probably being a little hypocritical based on the way I comported myself when I was on a scooter, but I think that’s just the way of the road. Whatever mode of transportation you happen to currently be using is the right one and everyone else is a god damn maniac.

We took a taxi to the airport. Shuttle bus drivers? Maniacs.

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Here we learned that the Thang Long Not-Raptors, Saigon Heat, Can Tho Catfish, and Houston Texans were all competing for the VBA championship. Go Catfish.

We got picked up at the airport in Saigon by our hotel. Thank you Silverland Yen for saving us from trying to take the bus again. We got our bearings and Joe got to work building us a list of places to eat. He found 24 places he wants to eat. We’re here for 3 days so we only have to have 8 meals a day and we’ll be fine.

There was a foreign soda in the mini bar that I felt obligated to try.

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Saxi!

The words below Saxi google translate to, “Positive Chapter.” It was delicious and I’m trying to count it as one of the 8 meals, but Joe refuses to recognize it as such.

We headed out to find some Bun Cha (pork noodles), but we ended up at a place that served Bun Ca (fish noodles). It was a simple address mistake, 140E vs. 140B. By the time we’d figured it out we’d already sat down and ordered, but we were pretty happy where we were.

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You can tell a restaurant is going to be up Joe’s alley when it’s located in an actual alley.

We ordered a couple of dishes that the purveyor recommended. When this came out, I started to get a little worried.

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“Is this a fucking hot pot, Joe?” I asked politely, “Did we order a mother fucking hot pot?”

It was not a hot pot, but it was close. The guy had to show us what to do and we dutifully followed his instructions.

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The guy made this one

I wanted to show I was a good eater so I took my first bite with more enthusiasm than was probably necessary. The chilis went hard charging to the back of my throat and sent me into a coughing fit. At the same time I had to pull a fish bone out of my mouth all while the guy who just cooked the food was standing right by our table. It was a low moment.

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This stew was less aggressive
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Eventually I pulled it together

We thanked them for the delicious meal and went in search of the next one. We got a lot of food to get through.

We navigated the streets of Saigon, Joe leading the way. I just followed him and tried to tell myself to stand up straight.

We passed these aliens.

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They were being cute a second ago, I swear.

We ended up in another alley at a place that makes a kind of Vietnamese savory pancake known as Banh Xeo.

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It was pretty damn good. I loaded up a piece of lettuce with a slice of that cake and some chopped chilis that were sitting on the table. “They’re table chilis.” I told myself, “How bad could they be?”  I took a big bite. As I was sitting there, wondering how I could have possibly done this to myself again, Joe’s sage words from the Thai restaurant kept echoing in my head.

“That chili powder is legit. That chili powder is legit. That chili powder is legit.”

I knew in my head that eventually it would get better, that the heat would subside and I’d be able to breath again, but it was hard to make myself believe it. I wiped my lips off with the wet wipe. Not much help there. Maybe if I put the whole thing in my mouth? Nah, better to cut my lips off with shears. Once I stopped crying we paid our check and headed back to the hotel.

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High voltage dangerous death

We didn’t leave again. We watched weird sports like badminton and soccer, and of course, music videos.

I did leave one other time on a solo mission to get banh mi’s. Almost everything was closed so I, shamefully, went to a Starbucks to get safety sandwiches in case I couldn’t find anything else. Luckily I stumbled upon a lonely banh mi cart behind a row of street market tents. There was a sheila to the left of it fanning herself and two sheilas to the right. One of them was asleep. I indicated to the awake one that I wanted some sandwiches and she poked the sleeping one who woke up and made them. Thanks for doing that, banh mi sheila, you did two tired dudes a solid. Get some sleep, we’ll do the same.

We only ate three meals so we’re going to have to roll five meals over to tomorrow. Stay tuned as the Saigon food party rolls on.

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