Sunday, June 20, 2004

More Vietman, late June 1994.

We ate well in Vietnam. Many people there do not, but with a mark, a yen, a buck or a pound, you happen to be rich. If you happen to be rich, you should spend your money somehow, and that’s how we spent a fair amount of it. Yuriko says the coffee was good, and that she liked the rice (unlike Thai rice, though I’m pressed to taste the difference). But who needs rice in the country that has mastered French bread? The baguettes you can buy just about anywhere were good.

We arrived in Vietnam shortly after Coca-Cola made its return to the country, after being banished in 1975. But it cost almost no less than it did anywhere else, and wasn’t any different than anywhere else except, of course, that it was made with sugar, unlike the inferior corn syrup you get stateside. If I felt like a soft drink, I grew to prefer the Vietnamese imitation of Coke, called Tribeco, which retailed for 10 cents or so. Not bad at all. A couple of the local beers, Saigon and 333, weren’t bad either. And also cheaper than Cola-Cola.

Our favorite restaurant was, oddly, called Madras, though not Indian in inspiration, but more like the Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to outside the country. Opening on a street, it was long and narrow with only a half-dozen tables, and it must have been upmarket for most Vietnamese, though not insanely expensive ($4 or so for two). The girl who worked there, probably the daughter of the owner, was nice, and it was also a fairly quiet place, not an easy thing to achieve near the streets of Saigon.

Maxim’s, where we went on the last night of the country, would have been insanely expensive by local standards. We had dinner there in an effort not to have many dong left over when we left the country, since the currency is so soft that absolutely no one will exchange it for anything else, certain not free-floating Thai baht. Maxim’s had the air of a posh night club down on its luck, with certain details betraying it, such as tattered chairs and tablecloths. But it still drew a clientele of foreigners like us, and obviously rich Vietnamese. The food wasn’t bad, and, truthfully, not all that expensive: the two of us ate for $14.

Baguettes, perhaps, aren’t such a surprise in Vietnam. But the excellent ice cream shop on Le Loi Blvd. was unexpected. Had a concoction with assorted tropical fruit, though I forget what it was called. It was near a dollar shop, where you use dollars, and get change in dollars (though small change is in dong). We bought squid-flavored snacks there.


Post a Comment

<< Home