Sunday, July 22, 2012
The Saigon effect
Some vendors recognise me now. The cigarette lady knows not to charge me the tourist price because I simply won’t buy. In return, I wait politely until the tourists have finished congratulating themselves on how cheap it is, not knowing they’re paying two and a half times what they should be.
The souvenir shops stopped calling out to me two months ago. I went in today though, to buy a fridge magnet for my Dad, and the coconut seller outside asked me if I was leaving. The first time I bought from him, he wanted to know if my nose stud was diamonds. I prudently said no. He laughed and told me he used to be a goldsmith. I grinned back noncommittally, but neither of us had enough of the other’s language to pursue the interesting story of why a goldsmith was selling coconuts.
As I added it to the pile of gifts that needed to somehow magically not add up to excess baggage, I suddenly realised I’d bought very little for myself, though I’d been living on the doorstep of Saigon’s most popular tourist market.
In the exhilarating chaos of life here, I’d got myself back. Merci, Saigon. Whatever happens next, that's one souvenir I will display with pride and pleasure.
PS: Most of the photos here are not mine but I don't know whose they are so cannot acknowledge.
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