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!