Rum Agricole: Negrita in Old Saigon

Negrita Rum in old Saigon More than half a century ago, some time in the 1950s, a small triangle of vacant land lay at the confluence of Tran Hung Dao and Nguyen Cu Trinh Streets. Its address today is 148 Tran Hung Dao, on the way west to Cho Lon (the Chinese district). Some time back in those olden days, I don’t know exactly when, it might even have been in the waning days of French rule, a billboard size advertisement was painted on the eastern... Read More

An Tet Viet TV Show

The annual Tet cultural-show-with-foreign-guests, broadcast from Hanoi. I appear with the Irish ambassador, a Japanese laquer artist, a Viet Kieu adventurer and a Korean musical couple. There is Vietnamese voice-over, but you can still hear the English. My main contribution starts at about minute 40. Though if you want to see me sing (shudder), watch the begining. http://vtv.vn/video-clip/131/An-Tet-Viet-09022013/video3264.vtv  Read More

Jenga

 It was mid afternoon. With my big shades, and my Panama hat pulled down low over my eyes, I slouched into Hien & Bob’s Pub like a private eye working a case. Outside, the tropical sun blazed and glared with painful brightness. But inside the bar its shadowy coolness wrapped around me like a trench coat. There she was, behind the bar. Gorgeous as usual, dressed in one of those silk Ao Dai she always wears. She still had that pouty look... Read More

Saigon Pickpockets | How to Turn the Tables

Saigon has always been a lady, and a beautiful one, but a lady with a touch of sin. There is a game you can play here, when you are tired of more mundane pastimes and hanker after a contest of wits and nerve. It is not inherently dangerous, but neither is it a game for the faint of heart. Much is at stake. For in this game the hunted becomes the hunter, and the predator turns prey. I should say that there is currently an Englishwoman residing at the... Read More

Coffee Calm

Back in the States, Canada, Oz, NZ or UK, coffee is something often taken on the fly. Battling traffic on the way to work you pull into the 7-11, or other factory made convenience store. You rush in. You pour a hot brown liquid, that often smells like a dirty ashtray, into a paper cup, slap on a lid, throw ever increasing amounts of small money down on the counter and you’re back in your car slurping your caffeine fix with one hand and negotiating... Read More

Saigon Rooftop View a la Proust

I saw the most startling thing not long ago. Not long ago I saw a view of Saigon for the first time. Now this was not the Saigon I used to know when she was a callow girl from a far-away province on the far side of the world. No. I saw the new Saigon, and I saw her with new eyes. I saw the ultra-modern, international lady who still wears the Ao Dai and limpet hat of her past. I saw Saigon for the second first time from the same kind of vantage point... Read More

Sinh To, the Smoothie

There was one bright candle in the dark night of the gastronomic Bad Old Days before the mid 1990s. A little beacon of cool relief that you could count on finding at any given street corner or roadside rest any time of day or night. It was the most beguiling combination of Vietnamese artifice and natural goodness: the fruit smoothie, known here as sinh to. Now I’m not talking about the smoothies you get in the States in some coffee-cum-juice... Read More

Clark Gable and Nachos in Vietnam

What in the great wide world could Hollywood heart-throb Clark Gable, nachos, and Vietnam ever have in common? Hey, this is Vietnam. Never be surprised at anything! In 1932, Gable, the then reigning “King of Hollywood,” and Jean Harlow made a flick called Red Dust. Gable played a rubber planter and Harlow a hooker. And the red dust referred to in the title was the soil of southern Vietnam. Yeah, you got that right. The action took place in the... Read More

Saigon Says, Hail, Caesar! (salad)

It’s a good life we lead here as expats. “Palm trees grow, rents are low, and the feeling is layback.” Being on the far side of the world, however, there are certain things we must do without. Although, I must say, the situation is improving. Back in the day it was impossible to find super premium gin. The best one could do then was a pint of Gordon’s. That’s a perfectly reasonable drop when gin & tonic is your goal. But... Read More

Gin & Tonic in Saigon

The day was beastly hot, not long ago. I had been stumbling through the narrow alleyways (the hems) of “The Pham” keeping track of all the continuous changes and deciding if they’re good or bad. It’s part of my job as a self-appointed arbiter of taste. I was sweating bullets and much in need of blessed relief. Now if you’ve lived long anywhere in the tropics you know that there is a great and universal constant that offers such relief. It’s... Read More

Next Page »