Sunday Jan 17 Church and Temples

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 17th, 2010

It was a mad house at the airport when I went to pick up Iris, Friday evening. I was to call the taxi driver, I had come in with from Saigon, when I had met up with Iris. But how do you tell someone who does not speak a word of English where he is to pick you up? But we managed somehow in the end. Saturday we wandered through the nearby Central Market. A great place to find inexpensive gifts and souvenirs and practice your bargaining skills. We shared a Bun Bo Hue, noodle soup, for lunch. Bought fresh Logans. Poked around in the antique stores section. Iris has the same interests as I have. She likes to engage locals and total strangers and exchange experiences and learn new ones.  We had a hot pot at my new Vietnam-American repatriate friend, Mike, ‘s restaurant, for dinner. This morning we attended 9.30 a.m. English service at the Cathedral O.L. of Saigon. We rented bikes for the day. Showed her the Post Office. Then did my sixties routine at Givral, the “Milk Bar”, to have my coffee and Creme Caramelle. Iris engaged a western gentleman at Givral to answer a question she had. She had correctly guessed that he’d be a “local”. Turned out Charles Johnson was a Tennessean who has worked here with charitable organizations since 1994. He is 9 days my junior. He works with support groups for victims of Agent Orange, HIV infections and leprosy. I showed Iris, rue Catinat and the river front.  We changed from our church clothes and went exploring the “off road” areas of Saigon and Cholon, on the bicycle. It reminded me of the the first two months in Saigon in 1961. John David Dirstine, another draftee, from Spokane, Washington and I would spend our free time exploring these same areas, while the rest of the company would be playing peanuckle in the mess on base or spending time in the bars and brothels. If I did not know any better I’d figured Iris grew up on a bicycle in Amsterdam. It is rare to see a westerner brave the Saigon traffic on a bicycle. We visited a number of Buddhist temples, including Thien Hoa, I reported on last Friday. The pictures below were taken in the Puoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda. It was built in 1902. The Horse is the sacred horse of Quan Cong. I am not sure of the significance of the two Phoenix statues. But it intrigues me. Coincidentally my former wife, Mattie, was born under the sign of the Horse and her given name is Fung Mei, which means beautiful Phoenix. Three men were having a Lieu Moi (rice alcohol)party and invited us for a “Yo”!  In this part of town they seldom see Occidentals and we were constantly greeted with a “Hello”! by the children and some adults. Coming back down the Bridge out of Cholon we discovered a lively looking restaurant/beer hall. Iris called it the “Hooters” of Vietnam. Attractive waitresses in mini skirts.  We spent the princely sum of $ 5.50 for 3 beers and an order of Cha Gio and had a blast with the waitresses, the Miller girls and the neighboring tables.

 

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