The bill, please!

Today is a tough day. Tomorrow morning I am leaving Vietnam.

Not only do I have to do my packing, return the rented motorbike, take care of electricity and water bills – but also to get rid of anything in the fridge and cupboards.

I have been an awfully good boy! I brought one big bar of dark chocolate with chilli from Germany – and there is still some left! Also some wine gums left over! See how good one can be under pressure! My does not like me to eat sweets, so I don’t. I will eat that stuff in Peking tomorrow then :)

There are still a couple of beers in the fridge, some coke and a bottle of Havana Club. My just left and will come back only in a few hours. So, I better start with the Cuba Libre now. Would be a shame to throw those things away. I don’t care so much about the beer. There is also some red wine left – which My will take home to her place to keep for my next visit or so.

I will also have to finish off some leftovers in the fridge from yesterday: squid and a vegetable soup. That will be perfect for lunch.

Tonight we will go out for dinner. That’s also a toughie. Because I will want to eat something I cannot get in Europe. So, maybe something Vietnamese would be suitable? :P But then I would want something I have not eaten recently.

I tell you, there is not much out there. In Saigon I had snails, eel, dried frogs, buffalo, duck tongues, blood soup and pig guts. Here I recently had crab, squid, goat, boar and so on. I can only think of dog and snakes at the moment. Both of which My does not like – so they are out of question. The rest she does not really like to eat in the restaurant because she can cook it better than they! She is so happy with her vegetables boiled with pork ribs or fried with ginger and garlic. What can I do?

The truth is, in the last few months in Vietnam I have eaten such a variety of foods that I have no particular desire for one of them. I have adapted! In the first year I found Vietnamese food very boring (being used to Thai food and Laos cuisine). The “timid” use of spices, no “passionate” dishes and so on. Now I have come to appreciate this “family food”. Maybe because of my My. Who as a professional cook buys only the best ingredients at the markets. We all know what a difference in cooking a quality product makes!

In short words: I have come a long way to appreciate the moderate Vietnamese cuisine! It is influenced by China (like many other historical things in Vietnam as well) but has its independent and unique ways. The French also left a mark, with Vietnam having been a French colony for a century or so. So: Vietnamese cuisine is unique in South East Asia.

20-30 years ago in Germany there was a huge boom of Thai restaurants. Which made most of the existing “Chinese” restaurants either collapse or re-orientate into “Thai” restaurants. Now, when I look at the scene in the big German cities, everywhere there is a least one Vietnamese restaurant in the top ten! Amazing! Because (like before with the pseudo Chinese and the Thai restaurants) their food is but a mediocre reflection of simple Vietnamese fare (in the best case)!

Vietnam has a future! Not only as a tourist destination. With a population of an average age of 25 years an their national pride there is also a potentially great economical future ahead. Vietnamese are hard working and disciplined (they call them the Prussians of Asia).

In the few years that I am spending about 3 month a year here I see change. A lot of it. Mostly in the South, Saigon. Not so much in Hanoi. That’s why I am here. As I am not here because of business but because of quality of life I prefer my old fashioned, relaxed ways here. Which does not mean that I am not trying to make a few modest bob here with some tiny strategic investments. And I am sure the Vietnamese will not disappoint me!

I strongly recommend Vietnam as a holiday destination to all of you. Some of you have been here and know what I am talking about. To my other friends I say: Vietnam can be a once in a lifetime experience – if you are open to other cultures and stay away from the tourists (where possible). For this you need locals. Either you go for a (low budget) “home stay” or you spend good money (luxury version) for hiring a guide and a driver (foreigners are not allowed to drive cars here). Or, if you are single (best solution of them all) you find a local lover with whom you spend your time here and who “lends” you his eyes to see things in a Vietnamese way.

Maybe you would call me crazy. For the last 14 years I was the “Bavarian-Macedonian” who apportioned his life between Bansko and Germany. Bansko is still the centre of my universe! But since I moved my German residence from Frankfurt to Munich my escapes to Germany have become more frequent and pleasurable. Now, since three years, Vietnam also used its elbows to claim a place in my heart. And, yes, I have adopted it – like one of our stray dogs in the past.

I know, you could not care less about my feelings and egoistical monologues. I should rather entertain you. But today I am a little sentimental.

 

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