Whether you call it Istanbul or Constantinople, I think you know the city I'm talking about. I had no trouble crossing the border from Cambodia to Vietnam, and even got given a slice of mango with chilied salt from one of the border officials! It felt like we were driving into Saigon for a long time. When we finally stopped, we were on De Tham road... which is the exact street my friend lives on! Things couldn't get more convenient than that.
I walked through several blocks of this backpacker district, crossed a crazy street, then found my friend's place in a quiet alleyway. Jacklyn and I met in college in Bellingham, and we realized we hadn't seen each other since we went to a Northest Brew Fest at St. Edwards Park back in... 2005? It was great to see her and she was a wonderful guide since she speaks Vietnamese and really loves living in Saigon. That afternoon, she took me to her favorite Pho (beef noodle soup) place, and it was delicious. She already had Saturday night plans, so I tagged along to a Tapas restaurant, where I met other English teachers, and we drank red wine and had mussels, salmon croquettes, and empanadillas. Then we went to her friend's costume birthday party, where I went as Japanese in Jacklyn's kimono.
The next day we had breakfast at a street stall, and I forget the name of the dish, but it's these thin, wide rice noodles rolled around pork, and served with sprouts and herbs, and doused in fish sauce. It was delish. We sat at the tiny stools eating and watched the old woman expertly make dozens of these fresh noodles over a wood-fire cooker. Then we rented motorbikes to take a roadtrip to the coast. Driving in Saigon is INSANE, but I felt okay about it after a combination of riding a bicycle in road-anarchic Korea for so long, and recently renting the scooter in Thailand. I told Jacklyn I would just follow her. We headed out of town, took a ferry across the river (with about 100 other bikes!), and then got onto a nice open road before getting to the beach. We cooled down from the hot, road-grimy ride with iced tea, iced coffee, and a dip in the ocean.
The next morning I went with Jacklyn to her Zumba class which was super fun, and poached a swim in the super fancy pool. So really I wasn't much of a tourist in Saigon, more just hanging with my friend, but I like doing that in a new city. The one touristy thing I did was go to the War Remnants Museum about the Vietnam War, which was incredibly sad (especially the effects of Agent Orange) but really well done. More about that later. Next up: to the coast again!