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A Saigon Christmas Eve

December 28, 2010

On Christmas Eve, Kari, Tanya (the newest addition to the Ladies of Air Mekong,) and I ignored the warnings of the locals and ventured into District 1. They said it was madness. We wouldn’t be able to move in the traffic. Sounds like something I don’t want to miss. So, after a nice dinner at The Refinery, we set off out to admire the city.

They were right. It was a startling difference from Christmas Eve in the States where the roads are empty and everyone is at home. I think the whole city was out – either on motorbikes or on foot. There were street vendors selling cans of spray “snow” and children in red and white Santa-style outfits. Tanya and Kari got caught in the crossfire of a canned snow fight, and smelled like soap for the rest of the evening.



Some of the sidewalks were completely blocked by people posing for pictures in front of the decorated storefronts. Parents made their shy children pose for our cameras – one going so far as to place her frightened child in Tanya’s arms. The Asian’s love of being photographed, and lack of shame in doing a personal photo shoot in front of everyone, is endlessly amusing. It seems like the whole point of going out was to see and be seen. The streets where traffic was allowed were one solid motorbike jam. It makes me curious as to how many people meet while waiting in Saigon traffic.



We attempted to have drinks with a city view on the rooftop restaurant at the Rex Hotel, but they were having a ticket only Christmas dinner so we settled for sneaking out on one of their side balconies. The view was amazing. The streets below were swarming with people as far as we could see. The decrepit apartment building flanked on either side by an elegant, old government building and the sleek, modern Vincom Center provide a fascinating contrast that seems to epitomize Saigon.




After our Rex Hotel rejection, we started walking the 1.5k toward Le Pub. We heard they had glühwein, which, in spite of the heat, sounded like the perfect Christmas Eve drink. As we crossed the streets and made our way through the maze of motorbikes, I couldn’t help but think how far I had come from the person who, three months ago, was nervous to cross the street in Hanoi.


When we finally arrived at Le Pub, the only hot drink they had was cinnamon vodka (because ‘who wants a warm drink in this heat?’) so we settled for spring rolls and cold, crisp, white wine instead.


Later, we walked back to the city center and met up with more friends for the rest of the night. It was thrilling to be a part of so much excitement – even if they don’t know the real reason for it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Beverly Ericson permalink
    December 29, 2010 10:58

    Grace: I’ve traveled much of the world (via literature) and have found your letters like a publication from the Vietnamese Dept. of Tourism. Most interesting and your writing style is easy to read.

    We’ve had a great Christmas – snow even. Have a good day!

    Bev and Steve Ericson

  2. Charity permalink
    December 29, 2010 23:51

    Sounds like an adventurous Christmas Eve! Glad your Christmas was merry and may you have a happy and blessed new year!!!! xoxo


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