It’s The Little Things – Khoa Nguyen – Saigon, Vietnam
We spend a lot of time writing about the sights and experiences side of travel, the more interesting and easily shareable part of the trip. But the majority of our time is spent on normal daily life activities, which are always more complicated than they should be due to language barriers and us being in unfamiliar locations. Kevin will tell you that this is his favorite part of traveling.
We’ve been in Saigon for six days. We like to eat fruit every day. There are no supermarkets close by. So every morning becomes a quest to find fruit.
Day 1: Kevin found what might be a fruit store a few blocks away in an alley. They have a Facebook page, but it’s in Vietnamese. Google Maps says they open at 8am. We go to check it out. The alley just looks like some people’s houses. Fail.
Day 2: Maybe the place from yesterday was closed to celebrate the lunar new year. Kevin goes to check it out again. Still nothing, but on the way back he finds a woman selling fruit on the street. He points at a few things that look tasty and asks “how much” (he thinks) in Vietnamese. She shows him a few bills so he knows how much to pay, which he then hands to her and goes on his way. We end up with watermelon, pineapple, mango, papaya, and something that tastes like a potato. Overall, not bad.
Day 3: Feeling confident, Kevin ventures back to the fruit lady and uses the same pointing method. This time it’s pineapple, mango, and something that tastes like a radish. Good enough.
Day 4: While out walking around in a nice part of the city, we bump into something that resembles a real grocery store. They sell extremely overpriced apples. We buy them anyway. Life is good.
Day 5: Back in the neighborhood, fruit lady is nowhere to be found, but there’s another lady up the street selling nothing but pineapples. We’ll take what we can get.
Day 6: People in the neighborhood are back from celebrating the lunar new year, and there is now a lively morning street market in our neighborhood. Kevin spots a watermelon cart. Jackpot. He points at one and asks “how much” in Vietnamese. The lady puts it on a scale, then says something in Vietnamese. He gives a blank stare. She brings him over to the scale to show him the weight. He smiles and says “how much” in Vietnamese. She points at the scale and explains something to him in Vietnamese. He smiles again, not knowing what to do. They stare at each other, unsure of how to finish this transaction. The lady finally shows him a few bills so he knows how much to pay. They both have a laugh, he pays and thanks her.
The most simple tasks become challenges, but the act of figuring out how to complete them is the reward.
Kevin and Josh were both in need of haircuts, so yesterday they ventured out into the neighborhood to a local hairstylist. He appeared to be award winning based on some of the banners and golden scissors hanging in the small, one room open air salon on the ground floor of their shop. Out of the five people there, only two spoke a few words of English, the hairstylist not being one of them. With some showing of pictures on the phone, hand gestures, and pointing and laughing, Kevin and Josh scored some sweet new haircuts and a fun morning of people watching. Yes, that is a moustache…