time stops in Saigon

My life in Manila, and I’m sure Ron experiences the same thing in Singapore, is a terrible whirlwind that can toss the nicest hairdo I can ever pull with my long hair. I wake up, take a shower, go to the office, work, work some more and go on overtime (because what else is there to do?), go home, and finally sleep, if I can manage to sleep at all. I mean, I love my work and the lovely and talented people I’m with, and there is no sarcasm in there, but I am consumed by it. I even forget eating is a basic necessity. A workshop I am presently attending made me realize that I am not cut to run forever in this corporate rat race.

Looking back at our trip to Vietnam and my current state of mind that is constantly controlled by my girly hormones, Ayn Rand, books and blogs I read, and the things I see on TV; I am wishing that we could’ve stayed more than just four days in Saigon’s sleepy bosom. In fact, I would’ve loved to stay not really in that place (although it won’t hurt if I did), but more of in the state I was in, and that was traveling.

There is something about Saigon that lulls you to sleep. Ironically, I am drinking Vietnam coffee as I write this article. Vietnam coffee is like a kick in the nuts, if I had nuts. As I was saying, it felt like I was swooped into a wormhole as soon as we arrived. We got ourselves comfortable in the hotel, too comfortable that we were able to watch several episodes of American Idol before we realized we are in the heat of our summer Holidays 2011 and there is a new world out there waiting to be discovered.

We stepped out of our cozy place and caught the Saigon air. The next thing we did was unthinkable. We threw away the entire arsenal we had, from researched buildings we needed to go to, to the tips we gathered from our friends who already visited the country. Then we prepared ourselves for an afternoon of pleasant aimless walking and people watching.

Ron and I followed the road to the nearest bar, sat down, and ordered my first serving of Saigon beer. Ron naturally pleaded out and enjoyed coffee instead. I seriously feel we are becoming juveniles when traveling as we would now opt to sit down and savor the place instead of running around and trying to cover as much as we can. And for some reason, I have come to like it that way.

Beyond the chaotic streets and revving motorcycles, I saw life unfold. Saigon life is laid back, even simple. I had a strange feeling that people there don’t work at all. Yes, there were attendants and there were vendors. Yes, there were government officials and there were lots of people on their motorcycles trying to get from one place to another. And yes, I saw people wearing crisp shirts and sleek slacks. But I never saw anybody work nor hurry like people work or hurry in Manila, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore. Perhaps aliens are running the country…

We stirred ourselves from coma and wandered off and passed by the French colonial building that is the People’s Committee Building. It is super exclusive to civil servants and cam whoring is not allowed along the building vicinity. We also decided to drop by the Notre Dame Cathedral which is the largest church to be constructed in the French Empire outside of France. It’s reflection against the sun is nothing short of stunning.

Tradition leaks from every corner as ao dais (clothing for women), ao gams (clothing for men), and non las (pointy hat) still drape the local men and women. It was like walking on the set of Miss Saigon. But in reality, Vietnam is the Asian version of “Blast from the Past.” It only shows how the people are trying to save every fiber of who they were before being overrun by the steady influx of foreign influences.

To cap off the lazy day, we found a shady spot at the city park where we let the time drift without care.

There is something about Saigon that lulls you to sleep. It made me walk a little bit slower, drink my beer a few sips slower, bask in the sun a few hours longer.

It must be reality that has a hold on me that I continue to dance to the tune of stress. It’s a self inflicted pain I hope to overcome by continuing to do what I love doing till I find something that would actually pay me to do what I love doing. Meanwhile, Hello Monday!

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  • Marky

    June 5, 2011 at 6:10 am

    My brother also came from a trip to Vietnam and he marvels about the unique characteristic of Vietnam (di lng yung mga ng momotorsiklo na di ng me menor lol) especially Saigon with all the mixture of French and Chinese influence it manages to keep those amid the western influence. I hope to set foot on this city and the rest of Vietnam someday.

  • lakwatsera de primera

    June 5, 2011 at 6:45 am

    ahh, the laid back charm of Saigon captivated me as well! I have lots of good fun here, my first solo trip abroad, and prolly the trip that fuelled further my lust to wander 🙂

  • Jan Ross

    June 5, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Nothing wrong with just kicking back and watching things go by – you see some pretty interesting things that way! Also, I had to tell you how much I love Ayn Rand. I discovered her books in college and devoured them and have read them several times since then. You do have to plow through some of her ranting, but the stories and philosophies are amazing.

  • supertikoy

    June 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    punta ako dito by July…mukang masayang gawing ang people watching sa last day bago bumalik ng pinas. =)

  • The Travel Chica

    June 5, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Sounds like you found the perfect way to enjoy Saigon.

  • jamie - cloud people adventures

    June 6, 2011 at 12:51 am

    totally feel you on the corporate world. about to dive back into it for a (hopefully) brief while, very regretably.
    sitting back and enjoying a beer or a kick in the nuts sounds like the perfect travel itinerary to me.
    love the photos as always!

  • Mark Wiens

    June 6, 2011 at 1:56 am

    It’s ironic how such a motorcycle frenzy filled and chaotic place can be so relaxing and laid back at the same time. It’s like an all out free for all, but when things slow down, people really enjoy spending leisure time with others. I love the pictures!

  • pinoyboyjournals

    June 6, 2011 at 7:03 am

    saigon beer in the afternoon at the heart of ho chi minh is just awesome! would do that again in a heartbeat

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:24 am

    @marky: see it soon. they have constructions going on everywhere. i think ron and i were lucky to have seen it ng di pa masyadong modernized. 🙂

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:25 am

    @claire: great to hear. it is certainly fuelling me now to travel more! 🙂

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:31 am

    @jan ross: true that! sometimes you just have to sit and watch, and everything unfolds before you. first time i read ayn rand and i was hooked! atlas shrugged is my bible! 😀

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

    @jerome: don’t forget saigon beer while you are at it! lol!

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:34 am

    @stephanie: perfect indeed! 😀

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:39 am

    @jamie: i do hope you will be able to get out of it the soonest! i am summoning every courage i have to break off from it, in time. 🙂

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:42 am

    @mark: it’s beat poetry at its best!

  • flip'n travels

    June 6, 2011 at 8:44 am

    @jerik: dude, you dont know how much saigon beer i drank before leaving vietnam… from 7pm-11pm, non-stop… pft!

  • flip

    June 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    i love aimless wandering… just walking around with nothing to expect gives me joy and most often than not, i find little surprises tucked in some small streets in vietnam…

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    June 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Wow, I had no idea Saigon was laid back. I would have thought the total opposite. Looks like I need to go see for myself 🙂

  • David @ MalaysiaAsia

    June 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    That’s some lovely photography! Yet to visit Saigon but Hanoi’s an awesome place too.

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic

    June 7, 2011 at 2:59 am

    You paint a beautiful picture of Saigon – one I had no idea existed! Of course every city has those moments when time feels like it just stops, but I just never thought of Saigon like that. It’s great to see a more relaxed side of the city. 🙂

  • pinaytraveljunkie

    June 7, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I’ve only seen Saigon for a few hours and didn’t wander off much because there’s just so much traffic in the area we were staying. That year’s Ms. Universe was held there. Hahaha!

  • Eileen Ludwig

    June 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Funny to have someone describe Saigon with soft terms. When I think of it, it is with John Kerry or John McCain or the 10’s of thousands who died and the Vietnam memorial. It is hard to humanize it when there was so much negative.

    Nice to see the pictures and get a glimpse of another view


  • flip'n travels

    June 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

    thanks flip!
    @debbie: the tourists are the ones up on their toes, the vietnamese are very serene…
    @david: would love to see hanoi in the near future!
    @christy and eileen: thanks very much! it’s an art to be still. and more so to see stillness in chaos. 🙂
    @gay: haha! kaya naman pala! i was about to book another flight here yesterday nung nag sale, pabalik na lang ang 0! sayang!

  • lifeisacelebration

    June 15, 2011 at 12:38 am

    While traveling, it is so easy to get trapped with the “must-see, must-visit, must-photograph, must-meet” syndrome. Relaxing, imbibing the feel, the taste, the aroma, the culture, and feeling laid back, is a CHOICE. A good one at that. It means you are enjoying your present station. Happy travels, you two! Way to go 🙂

  • flip'n travels

    June 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    @lili… Amen! very well said.. i guess we are mutating to a different kind of travelers as we grow older! thanks much!

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