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  • Day57

    Jamie's Birthday in Saigon

    November 8, 2016 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Woooo today is Jamie's birthday! Happy Birthday Jam!

    So a few months ago before we even left the UK, I planned the whole day so that I didnt have to think about it when the time came. Lazy or super organised I am not sure.

    Anyway, I knew that we had a morning fill of eating so after I gave Jamie his first gift of the day (an Argentinian 2015 RWC rugby jersey that he was absolutely desperate for and couldnt find anywhere), I warned him to go easy on breakfast which given the crappy selection was relatively easy. On returning to our room, we found the hotel concierge standing outside with a cake in hand for the birthday boy. It was a lovely gesture and for someone that doesn't see the point in celebrating his birthday, he was already doing quite well out of the morning.

    At 8.30am, we left our hotel for our secret destination which was the local markets where we were meeting our chef from the Saigon Cooking School (Present 2 for Jamie) who would take us on a tour around the markets showing us weird and wonderful things for purchase like live frogs, lamb brains and hearts before heading to the school to cook up a storm. We learnt how to differentiate many different herbs and what type of herbs go into making the base for Pho (including Star Anise and Cinnamon) and got to appreciate the art of making rice paper.

    When we finally made it to the cooking school, we were shown the menu of everything we were going to learn to cook which included rice paper rolls, green mango salad and fried rice. We started with the rice paper rolls which were surprisingly easy to make apart from me over wetting the rice paper. Once I got the hang of that, we made two rolls complete with a satay sauce which was absolutely delicious and now fortunately I know how to make. Vietnamese food for everyone when we get home!

    We moved on to the green mango salad where we got to make pretty vegetables just like you see in most Asian cooking and followed it up with some fried rice which was fast and stressful with everyone on the gas stations. At the end of our class we were presented with dessert where Jamie was serenaded with a Happy Birthday song. Cue awkward face from Jamie.

    After class, I gave Jamie two choices - we could head up the Financial tower for a good view or do the more morbid activity and head to the War Remanants Museum which documents the atrocities of the Vietnam War and the effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese population. Jamie being Jamie chose the more morbid of the two and we treked north towards the museum. On this journey we were presented with a new phenomena, scooters driving at high speed along the pavements. No where was safe anymore, not even the footpath and I now had to pay attention to everything. This is hard for me as I am so unobservant and tend to zone out.

    We made it unharmed to the museum and proceeded to learn about all the torture methods that were used on prisoners held at Phu Quoc Island Prison and their treatment in "Tiger Cages". The cages were mortifying, as they were surrounded with barbed wire and only provided enough room for someone to lie down. When that space was shared with 3 other people, you can easily see how this was a sick method of torture. After observing various jail spaces and the guillotine, we entered the main building. The museum comprises of numerous photographic exhibitions showcasing the treatment of the Vietnamese people, the wide ranging disabilities caused by the generational effects of exposure to Agent Orange and a homage to photographers who died while documenting the war. The photos ranged from soilders being decapitated by the Americans, children and their mothers being murdered and the hardest hitting of them all, the effects of Agent Orange on unborn fetuses. There are no words to describe the utter sadness I felt by looking at this awful history which was unfairly inflicted on these beautiful and friendly Vietnamese people that we have come to know over the past few weeks. I couldn't for the life of me understand why the Vietnamese do not hate America for all the ongoing pain the country has caused here. Humanity certainly has a lot to answer for and I cannot fathom how human beings can do this to one another.

    I had to take a bit of time for myself while Jamie kept looking around the exhibition until I felt I could continue on with the day as planned and after a few hugs from the Birthday Boy, life once again felt a little more rosy.

    We left the museum to head back to the hotel briefly before the evening plans took hold. We decided to make a quick stop at a coffee shop beside our hotel for a couple of drinks before getting ready to hit the town. 1 hour later, dressed a little more classy, we were heading to Jamies next present of the day, cocktails at the rooftop Shri bar. The cocktails were all Vietnamese concotions which came in the form of coconuts, ships and milk bottles. The view from the top was pretty amazing with the skyline lit up in technocolour.

    At 6.45pm, it was time to head to the main attraction for the night - Noir Restaurant. The restaurant is completely pitch black to heighten your taste senses. The best part of this restaurant is that they hire disabled people (blind and deaf) to be the wait staff. The experience started by us being blindfolded and having to complete a childrens shape puzzle. Jamie started off well, but ended up putting a shape into the wrong hole and I overtook him and won where I got to remove my blindfold and watch Jamie trying to figure it out (see photo below). After this, the blind staff showed us to our table in the dark, which was done by me holding the shoulders of our waiter "Thom" and Jamie holding onto mine.

    Once seated, it took awhile for our eyes to adjust to blackness and our hands to adjust to our surroundings. We were served wine, and Thom guided our hands individually to where our wine glasses were. Jamie and I managed to clink our glasses together for a toast without spilling any (I think). We were then served our entrees which was comprised of 4 items, 2 soups and 2 salads. I attempted to eat my first soup but ended up getting it mainly over the table. I figured out quickly that I needed to grab the small bowl and put it as close to my face as I could while using my cutlery and managed to eat the rest of the entree, main and dessert courses with ease. Jamie throughly enjoyed the experience and even though he is in his words "blind as a bat" he found it just as difficult to adjust as I did.

    After dinner, we were shown what we were eaten on an Ipad to see if we had managed to guess what we had consumed. We had both managed to guess a number of our dishes but were stumped by a few.

    And with all of that, dinner was over. We went for a late night walk down to the waterfront to see the buildings lit up at night and made our way slowly back to the hotel where we scoffed the cake because we could 😎🎂
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