On Monday, Tien and I decided to find a new breakfast place. We walked several blocks through the heart of the tourist area at Pham Ngu Lao and found a lot of places that looked overpriced and inauthentic. I honestly don't like things to be too touristy, so when I see people with color t-shirts from the cities they have visited sitting at a fancy looking restaurant where all the seats face the street, I shy away. We walked down a block with big business offices and came upon a fancy cafe with about 20 motorbikes out front and knew it must be good. This is how I am going to gauge restaurants from now on, by how many motorbikes are out front. If there are few it's either bad food or for tourists.
After breakfast we again we went looking for meds and found nothing. Tien said she'd call her friend who is a doctor and ask him about it. We walked and talked and went and had smoothies. We, or rather I, talked a lot about music and culture and how I feel like VN is prime for an alternative culture to thrive. I feel like there is a lot of artistic talent here that has no direction and is still tied to the traditions of the culture, and that if there was a cultural icon who broke away from that tradition it would have a huge effect on the direction of the next generations. Music and visual art were my two main points of illustration. The fact that there is no alternative music to speak of and no graffiti in Saigon demonstrate the ties to cultural traditions.
We headed back to the hotel room and did some research online about pharmacies and malaria. I was horrified by the stories of people on Lariam (Mefloquine). The photos and story of the Somalia Affair were enough for me to stay away from that med. Malarone was probably out of the question, but I did find doxycycline and that looked very promising. What was even more promising was learning that Vietnam doesn't even have much of a malaria problem to begin with, and that's why it's so hard to find anti-malarials. Apparently there is only a problem with malaria in the high regions surrounding Laos, and one remote forested region down south. Tien's doctor friend said this and I didn't believe it at first, but I found malaria maps online to back it up. I wondered about the american medical system...
Again I napped, and again it was too long. I've decided to call off afternoon naps at all costs until I get my sleep schedule well in order. Tien and I woke up just after sunset and went to have dinner. We had pho, and we played a word game that I played with Lila's son Maks in the car on the way to the airport where you find a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word. Car, Road, Dream, Mellon, Nearby. This was a fun game to play for the word association aspect of it and for the vocabulary aspect for Tien.
After dinner we wandered back to a pirate DVD and Book store we found on my last trip, got some movies. We ate smoothies on the way back to the hotel, then stayed up late watching Minority Report on my laptop.
On Tuesday Tien and I went back to coffee viva for breakfast. We sat in the back next to a bronze statue of a topless girl reclining and arching her back. There was supposed to be a fountain or pond, but it was dry and smelled like fish so we moved. Over breakfast we talked about things we could do on this trip. We considered Ha Tien Beach, Ha Long Bay since she had never been there and Nha Trang since I had never been there. Other countries were also considered but Laos was ruled out with the highlands of Vietnam because of malaria. We also talked about getting me a motorbike license back in Long Xuyen.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a motorbike rental shop and looked at prices. It was $6 a day including helmets, which sounded really appealing. We decided to go plan more at the hotel and come back when we needed the bike. We picked up a pizza for an afternoon snack and went to a park by the hotel to look for a geocache. We found where the cache was but decided not to get it in the broad daylight because of the muggles. Instead we went to the hotel and chilled out for a while and ate our pizza. Tien called her old teacher Tyler about hanging out with him but he was busy that evening. I heard back from David that he was back from Singapore but was sick. He was resting for the rest of the day and would let me know if he was feeling better the next day. So, with nowhere to go we decided to nap.
We went out to walk around at dinnertime and had trouble agreeing on a restaurant. Tien eventually pointed to a decent looking place that was Australian themed. I got a big Saigon Red beer and some beef with rice. It was absolutely delicious at first bite, then I was hit by the MSG train. It wasn't a hint, it was obvious. Fortunately it was in the sauce and I was able to eat a lot of the rice and other tasty bits without it tasting too bad, but my mouth was still tingly afterwards. Tien's mixed fried rice wasn't too bad, but I directed us to our now usual smoothie spot for after MSG cleansing. The smoothie shop was conveniently right across from the geocache, which is now the only cache in Saigon. We found it quickly, took a trackable and went back to the hotel. We put on Harry Potter and the half blood prince but fell asleep about thirty minutes in, not because it was a bad movie.