21/10 – 26/10/12

Back again with our lovely friends in balmy Saigon. It’s monsoon season and humidity is very high. Michael and Trang bought recently a beautiful, large apartment overlooking the Saigon River. Here it is less crowded and noisy than in the area they lived before with Trang’s family. The building is a modern generously built high-rise with a large pool, sauna, tennis court, gym and restaurants on the ground floor.

We were very spoilt with lovely Vietnamese cooking from Trang and Trang’s Mę (mum), who cooked her special chicken curry and other delicacies “especially for Austin”, who was in culinary heaven. He would have even denounced our marriage for Mę’s curry and pork ribs.

It was great fun to see the family again: beautiful Tuyen, Vu and his lovely new wife, Ai, and hear stories of Giang, Hiro and their Baby Kaei in Japan.

On Saturday the 20/10/12 our special friend Jane in Australia had a special Birthday, so no sacrifice was big enough for us to get her a very special present:

Trang, Michael, Austin and I spent a sleepless night worrying about sleeping in and the forecast of heavy monsoonal rain. Finally, at 4.30am we managed to tear ourselves away from our beds for the dangerous trip through Saigon’s traffic to the airport. If you have in Vietnam, you know that traffic means multiple bikes laden with all sort of hardware and cars next to each other interweaving in no special order with multiple bikes and cars out of several other directions.

Well, we made it and caught our plane to the island of Phu Quoc.

No sooner had our feet touched ground we swung ourselves onto 2 bucking scooters and rode along the teeth clattering, bone shattering dirt roads. We encountered hundreds of massive water filled potholes and furrows of deep red mud spraying up our legs and sliding us towards oncoming trucks, bikes and wildlife (chickens, buffaloes, lizards). We also passed through dangerous villages with riled natives engaged in cockfights.

How we survived this Odyssey across the island and made it to the chosen place to buy a present for Jane – nobody knows!!!

Of course this was not the end of the ordeals we went through for our friend, Jane!

After a short beach break with some meagre sustenance washing our sore limps off in 28 degrees water, Austin and I lost the spring of our bike-stand and shortly after the clasp of my “plastic” helmet. So we drove off with the stand tied up by a piece of string and me holding on to the helmet with one hand and to Austin with the other. Luckily, Michael and Trang were sticking close by because next our bike stalled and would not re-start. A low battery! In the meantime threatening monsoon clouds had gathered overhead threatening to burst, and we could still be stranded in the middle of the dungel if we hadn’t been spotted by one of the bike-hire guys. He managed to re-start us somehow and only through Michael’s expert survival skills and astral navigation (so he says) we escaped being lost in the jungle drowning in the torrential downpour.

Nothing is too troublesome for our Jane! 

On the second day on Phu Quoc I was quiet embarrassed when two Vietnamese women on the beach pointed out my hairy legs and insisted on removing them. I watched with fascination how they first wetted a thread of cotton in their mouth, then twisted it. While relaxing the thread a little they captured a hair in one of the loops, then tightening the string with a quick pull. Much less painful than waxing and less irritating to the skin - I don't know whether the wetting was necessary though!

We are back in Saigon now and having a goodbye dinner with the family tonight, then off to KL for 2 days before heading home.

PS: If you got worried: I still have both my legs! I meant to say : insisted on removing the offensive hair.


Dinner with the family was amazing! Michael and Trang took us to "nhà hàng håi sån ngn". The restaurant has an outdoor feeling including trees, a pond and being open to the front. The owner has collected former street cooks, each for their expertise in a speciality. The mainly female cooks are set up in a walkway which goes around three sides of the dining areas in a similar fashion and just with slightly more sophisticated equipment than you see it everywhere on the streets of Vietnam.

The food is simply amazing! Another first for me: eating snails! Yum!

© Austin Robinson 2019