Loitering

Nothing like a good wander.

I’ve noticed that there is a lot more social acceptance of what we would call “loitering” here in Ho Chi Minh.

I don’t really take a lot of pictures of people. Partly because of embaressment (on my part and theirs), and also because I’m not hugely comfortable with distributing people’s faces on the World Wide Web. I’ll get back to this later, but that is one of the reasons why I haven’t really been taking pictures of people that I encounter, and why I don’t have more images of people sitting on the side of the road. Let’s just say that the street pictured above is pretty sparse.

The sidewalks are always lined with people sitting on little plastic stools, on motorbikes, under umbrellas, or even just “popping a squat.” They are sometimes drinking a refreshment, tending a small food stall, or talking with friends, but not always. There are many, many examples of people just leaning, sitting, or otherwise dilly-dallying on every street. Okay, maybe not the more touristy lanes and gardens, but definitely on the real streets. The specific variety of person may change, but there are always people on the side of the road.

And Circle K for some reason. I always thought they were just an Arizona things as I really haven’t seen them outside of the ol’ home state. They are everywhere here. You can see one in the above picture. The store itself is about the width of a set of double doors. Apparently at one time, taxes were determined by how wide your property was. Therefore, most stores are pretty narrow and deep. Citation needed on that, but I’ve been cramming my head with so many facts and trivia about Vietnam that I’ve forgotten where I read that.

I went to a place called Ben Thahn Market as well. It’s kind of the central tourist shopping place. It’s a warehouse sized building that is stuffed, and I mean STUFFED, with stalls selling pretty much anything you’d like. Vietnamese food, crafts, clothing, fake watches, tailors, candy, electronics, and so on. The aisles are about three feet wide and are absolutely crammed with tourists and salespeople.

I didn’t get any pictures because I got a bit panicky and scooted out of there after doing the minimum looking around. Also pushy salesmen and bargaining make me nervous. Come to think of it, I’ve been pretty nervous since coming here. Probably because the local McDonald’s is the only place I’ve bought something where the price is actually fixed.

Ah McDonald’s, I think every American that travels internationally becomes a McDonald’s connoisseur. You spend a lot of time somewhere, eat a lot of weird food (even the stuff you know tastes strange), and spend a lot of time in unfamiliar social situations. Suddenly, you come upon a McDonald’s, and that little slice of home is like a greasy sanctuary. You order a “McRoyal” with Pulp Fiction rolling through your head, and everything tastes right.

Then the guilt sets in. “Why am I across the globe, eating something that I would actively avoid back home?” “I bet this place has put dozens of locals out of business” “It’s not even cheap here, it’s more expensive than objectively better food right outside” “Am I really THAT tourist?” Push past these, because once you have a hot plate of fries, a cold soda, and sandwich of variable quality in front of you while you are perched on a hard plastic bench under harsh lighting and harsher decorations, you will know peace. You can close your eyes and imagine you are back in New Townsvilleburg, USA. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Then you can attack the rest of your day with renewed surety that you are having a good time not being home.

 

The Notre Dame cathedral I mentioned the other day.

The back of the Notre Dame Cathedral I mentioned the other day.

It’s pretty astonishing how lasting the French influence is here.

Just out of frame on this picture is a bronze bust of Marie Curie. This was opened as a French girl’s school, but is now a general public high school. I could have probably gotten a better picture, but I was a little nervous taking pictures of a high school and the guard was eyeing me.

There are tons of guards here, every store has security. When those aren’t around, there are police close at hand. I haven’t taken pictures of them because I know how touchy authorities can be about pictures and let’s just say that those officers of peace are of  varying quality. It’s actually really entertaining how on one block the security guards can be in starched uniforms and glowering at everyone from their rigid positions, and on the next one they are barely in uniform and playing cards with random people on the sidewalk. Authoritarianism can be goofy as hell.

Tiny ironies.

I was going to do the tourist thing and go to the nearest big attraction, the Independence Palace, the one where the tanks broke through and everything. I got this close.

Too many crowds. Not pictured to the left: Big Crowd.

Instead, I watched the locals tear buildings apart!

The guy in white is swinging a sledgehammer and breaking stuff.

Before:

After

Economic progress marches on! Sidebar: This is the third, I repeat, the third gas station I have seen this entire trip. It’s probably the most spread out building, that isn’t a government facility, I’ve seen. 

Where does everyone get gas? I walked out about three miles and back and this was the only one I saw today.

Found a new coffee place, it’s nearby my Uncle’s place. It serves bombing good coconut cream coffee. To get there, you go into an art gallery, a long hallway covered in an eyedazzling variety of paintings, and through it. Up two floors of a winding, rod iron staircase. Then down a narrow concrete entryway and emerge into a coffee place that is tiny, but has a great view and a lot of books.

I’ll take more pictures next time of the actual interior but that’s the view from where I was sitting.

Also, swimming is a thing I am doing. Trying to do laps. Tired of being Unfit.

Anyway, more music!

Chvrches “Leave a Trace” – I recommended another one by these guys last time, but I’ve kinda been binging their two albums ever since. Very good stuff.

Jefferson Airplane “Somebody to Love” – Second best song with that title, but you all know this one too.

Pylot “Flashbacks” – ’80s inspired, dark, instrumental…I’m not really that good with Electronica subgenres. But I like this! I also like the art I found that pointed me at it!

This was a long one, but today was long. Thanks for coming with me on these weird wanderings, I’ve had a lovely time, just don’t look behind you. It can smell uncertainty.

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