In 2004, I was having a terrible time at work and things in general were getting unbearable. So I decided to take a break.
I arrived in Bangkok by a night flight from Bangalore just as the tsunami was roaring across half the world's oceans, but I didn't know this then. I learnt about it only some 15, 20 hours later because I went to sleep as soon as I found myself a room.
In the following two weeks I went from Bangkok to Ayutthaya to Poipet (border town) to Siem Reap (Angkor), then across the Tonle Sap to Phnom Penh and finally Saigon. It was a slow, lazy wander and total value for my money in the sense that when I got back to my cubicle war I was sufficiently charged up to win some battles and improve my general situation.
The Angkor complex is a "must see before you die" destination...
But Saigon was the charm champ of my itinerary. What struck me most about the Vietnamese was that they seemed to have truly forgiven (but not forgotten) the past. The place was swarming with loud, middle aged Americans - "Vietnam Veterans" revisiting old haunts. The Vietnamese were invariably polite and considerate towards them, perhaps in deference to The Dollar. Perhaps.
Whatever might have been the reason for the equanimity of the Vietnamese, the truth of course is that this apparently peaceable, diminutive people engaged the most powerful army in the world for 20 years and eventually beat the shit out of it. Not very long ago. In 1975.
|The Saigon General Post Office.|
The Saigon General Post Office. The atmosphere inside reminded me of the Madras GPO on Beach Road in the seventies and early eighties. Designed by Eiffel.
|Tender Coconut vendor.|
|Facade of colonial era apartment block.|
He was selling lottery tickets (note the bunch in his hand) and was completely chilled out - not anxious, not grabbing, not really keen on making a sale - and friendly. He spoke a little english and I bought a ticket from him more as a handshake of camaraderie than a doling out of mindless largesse. Cool, laid back encounter.
|A peep over a wall...|
A saigonese family having a quiet afternoon with their dogs..note the man of the house in the hammock.