En route to Seoul


Bar at The Secret Cottage

Listening to a little K-pop (“RBB –Oh my god he’s a really bad boy, a really bad boy” And “sassy me” by Red Velvet, a girl band, are my fav so far) on our flight from Saigon to Seoul (when in Rome) and just discovered some decent smoked salmon among the otherwise unappealing breakfast fare from Korean Air. Also scored a travel toothpaste-size tube of gochujang (Korean hot pepper sauce) although I have a big tub of it at home. Good souvenir. And there’s French perfume, cologne and toothbrushes for the taking in the bathroom. I am reading a paper version of what used to be the international herald tribune, now the nyt, available free as we boarded. It’s very old school – broad and squat. (Note to self: check out the band The Foals; and new book about the Lakota.)

I may have witnessed Saigon asleep when I stepped onto our hotel balcony at 4:45 am but by 5:30 when our young handsome braided epaulet hotel helper (dressed in more casual sports gear so early in the morning) lugged our suitcases through the adjacent courtyard and narrow alley. The woman we saw washing raw chicken in a plastic tub was back at it. I could see a man in the more prosaic cement concrete building across from our French colonial manse in his bathroom. In our “grab” car (akin to uber) we passed people power walking in the park and doing group stretches/exercise routines at 5:45 am.

We got to the airport in 15 minutes, much quicker than when we arrived in HCM cityapparently we just missed the crazy rush hour.

The check in line moved slowly, with so many people checking so much luggage – big plastic tubs, huge cardboard boxes (some wrapped with cellophane and packing tape on site…not a welcoming sound at 6:30 am), giant hard suitcases., headed for destinations including Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

We decided the Korean female flight attendants have the loveliest garb, including a crisp teal colored bow tie that is so starched stiff that the end sticks up beside the left ear and a pretty large stiff teal bow in their tidy hair bun.

Sad to leave Vietnam but it’s been a great trip. Thoroughly enjoyed the people, sights, food (!!), lodging, nonstop (almost) street energy and action. The extreme heat and humidity was challenging but it hardly rained, despite dire forecasts. Last night as we walked in district 1 after yet another superb dinner at a hidden hip restaurant (the secret cottage, found after walking thru a narrow basket shop and up some shabby concrete steps, which we have learned is always a sign of good food ahead) the sky finally dumped sheets of water on us all. The motorbike drivers calmly opened up their seats, pulled out rain gear, put it on and resumed zooming wherever the heck they are going.

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