Episode 39: Two Days and Three Nights in Vietnam (Part 3)

Night 2 – Oct. 5

“We’re going over there later,” Kim said as she pointed at a port while we were at the Saigon Sky Deck. Our father’s ship was docked there near a canal, she said, and we would go meet him during his break time at her shop, which stood nearby. She also promised to cook dinner for all of us. (Mmm, home-cooked meals.)
It was rainy on the way to the Port of Ho Chi Minh City, which was at the outskirts of HCMC. It’s a good thing traffic isn’t as fast as what we usually have back in Metro Manila, except when there’s a traffic jam.

Along the way, I noticed that motorcycles are indeed a popular form of transportation here, and a large portion of the population use one to go anywhere.

Because of the large volume of motorcycles, the roads in HCMC have motorcycle-only and non-exclusive motorcycle lanes. Motorists only run at about 60 kph, if I remember correctly. It felt like I was in Metro Manila, except there it’s easy to mow motorcycles down even in motorcycle lanes.

By the time we got ourselves in a rather flooded part of HCMC, I thought yup, it really felt like I was in Metro Manila.


Kim is a businesswoman, our dad said, who sold merchandise such as electronics, food, perfumes, cigarettes, and clothes. He said a lot of Filipino seamen would hang out at Kim’s shop during their break. It was a simple shop (for a moment, we thought she had a large stall in a shopping center) but looks quite profitable.
We also learned that she already has twins (two daughters), though she is still single, or something like that. For some reason, I never bothered to ask so much. In any case, she’s living with her family and relatives who help her manage the shop.

The rain had stopped by the time our father arrived at Kim’s shop. It was nice to see our dad doing well after such a long time.

After Mom died, he tried to keep himself busy with work and a lot of matters. It was a hard time of mourning for us. Anyway, he left last May due to an assignment, and now he has been working on a cargo ship that goes around parts of Southeast Asia.

After a few hours of catching up, talking, and singing at Kim’s karaoke machine, it was time for dinner.

First up was a plate of stir-fried noodles with mixed vegetables and seafood. They were lightly oiled and seasoned, but very flavorful. Heavy stuff on the belly, actually.

Next came the steamed meaty crabs and some rice, followed by several plates of steamed prawns…

Wait, I’ve never seen shrimps or prawns this big. They tasted quite juicy and fresh, and I could feel some sort of a crunch in my mouth as I bit through the thick flesh. It’s so hard to describe this great-tasting prawn-shrimp creature. The salt-chili dip thing that came with it also made it more delicious.

Finally came a big deep-fried grouper with a chili-vinegar dip, and some dried, shredded squid. We were already full at this point, but they were so good, somehow we regained the urge to eat.

By now, we’ve eaten kilos of shrimps and clams, spoonfuls of crab meat and fat, gram after gram of freshly cooked fish, rice, vegetables, and spices. We’ve eaten so much, our host must really mean to show us how hospitable the Vietnamese are, how rich and healthy their cuisine is, and why their seafood – a major part of their cuisine – makes Vietnam a great place to dine in.

The last thing I expect is seafood cholesterol overload, or gout.

We spent the rest of the night singing and drinking (okay, it was just red wine). By then, Dad’s coworkers have arrived at the shop to dine, drink beer, and hang out. Now that I think about it, there aren’t a lot of shops near the port, aside from the banh mi stalls nearby. It’s like hanging out near Manila’s Port Area. There aren’t a lot of places to buy merchandise. No wonder Kim’s shop is doing well.

By the way, I sneaked out and ate a banh mi (Vietnamese baguette) at a nearby banh mi cart while everyone was busy. The banh mi reminded me of the Nom Nom Truck.
Before we left, Dad told us that he’ll be coming home by November. He said he originally wanted us to join him for a week at sea. In any case, he said he will call and check up on us throughout the rest of the time we have left in Vietnam.

How do I say this… Dad was never good at goodbyes.


MC left the hotel about midnight to meet up with a friend. He said this guy has been based here for a few years now, and he promised to show him around some of HCMC’s night spots. Lucky him.

MC would later on tell me how different going out in Vietnam at night is. A beer, he said, would cost 100,000 dong, and the cocktails cost more. People dressed up formally, like they’re going to a high-class party. Mostly yuppies and foreigners hang out in the bars. If it’s any consolation, K-Pop is popular in their dance floors.
While MC had a taste of Vietnam’s night life, I was left all alone in the hotel.

After several minutes of watching Vietnamese-dubbed anime (which I don’t obviously understand), I went out of the hotel, walked around the vicinity, bought a few beers and cigarettes, and resumed reading “A Cook’s Tour” in the room. I was just about to fall asleep when MC returned.

I wish I could have a chance to explore on my own in the morning, I thought.

By the way, I found out the name of that anime I saw.  It was a Chinese cartoon called “Princess Cassee” or “Ori Princess.”


Up next… A taste of Ho Chi Minh City’s classy lifestyle, and then some.



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