We move between chaos and control.
A tour bus made its final stop in front of a hotel. Tourists stepped down, immediately, with cameras (little did they know, traffic like this is all too common). Rain and randomness. Control and chaos, coexist.
That’s just one aspect of life in Saigon.
You might be sitting in an outdoor cafe, tucked in the corner table, still got sneaked up by a lottery ticket seller who lost both legs.
Even on a quiet night, Saigon still has some surprises for you: a translated version of Wonderful Tonight, a circus show from China or a low-key visit by Entertainment’s Most Powerful couple: Angelina and Brad.
Saigon is standing in its former shadow, that of Paris of the Orient. Its skyline sees new addition every six months.
Consumerism of all shades puts on its best display (black and blonde mannequins).
City life takes young folks out of the country and demands much less in social mores.
With chaos comes consumerism. With consumerism comes individualism. With individualism comes choices and frustration.
For now, the city is maintaining its equilibrium: buses weave in and out, parting a sea of scooters to pick up a few passengers.
Drainage capacity is pushed over the limits during rainy season.
And vendors claim whatever left of the already-carved up sidewalks.
I wrote once about a butterfly with its innocent dance in traffic. Now I realize traffic itself imitates the butterfly in its randomness . Here lies the key to crossing the streets in Saigon. Brave it! Don’t hesitate! Chaos, and not control.
First it’s stressful. Then it’s joyful. Once in a while, it’s painful (My xe-om driver made a 90-degree turn, and the scooter skidded. This destroyed my best dress pants, leaving a knee scar).
No pain no gain.
I guess by now I have gotten over the hump: reverse culture shock.
In academic parlance, I have gone semi-native.
Only when you stuck with it, that it made some sense: people do enjoy living here more than in the countryside.
Here, they can take classes, find jobs and get married.
More options, more choices.
Even amidst chaos, one can find joy in randomness. As unpredictable as a butterfly dance in traffic. I wish the place is a Hollywood set. But it’s far from it. Here the “extras” are the main characters. Or as in Roger Altman‘s genre, the place is the persona. No one seems to be in the lead. The city itself plays the lead role.