I wake up famished after a relatively light night of eating and drinking and excited for our planned trip to the bottom of District 1 where we should be able to get our first banh mi of the trip. Being a breakfast dish not too popular at this end of town, it's been difficult to find. We're heading to one that is well regarded and reputed to be run by a family of transvestites, which is the sort of tourist attraction I like to see when I'm on holidays. Monuments be gone.
But things aren't looking good. The six of us are split between two rooms at the hotel and the other room is in a poor condition to say the least. They're 30 minutes late to our planned meeting time due to various digestive issues, putting everyone in a fairly pensive, cautious mood.
That isn't helped when we arrive to the banh mi place and find that it's closed for the day. Back into “where are the locals eating?” mode and we find ourselves at some sort of rice place with fried and braised meats. It's not too great and it causes a fissure in the group, with the sick and cautious almost instantly deciding to head back to the hotel to rest for the day.
Only two of us remain and after a quick stroll I decide to go and check out the Lunch Lady that was made famous by the show No Reservations for her one soup a day menu. We eventually find her down a side street, conducting a soupy opera from behind her cart, thanks to the show, which now serves dozens of tables at a time. It's also the site of one of the largest populations of whiteys in Saigon.
You sit down and if you're a said whitey they'll also hook you up with some spring rolls and fried cakes from neighbouring stores. You can wave them off it you want, but for like 50c there isn't much point.
Saturday is usually banh cahn day. Crab broth, crab “udon”, prawns, pork, quail eggs and some sausagey things. The broth is loaded with flavour, complex and rich but not over the top. All of the ingredients perfectly cooked. There might be better soup places in the city, but this is a good stop.
We head back to the hotel to check on the patients and the scene isn't good. Their hotel room is like an opium den that has had all opium removed to make room for dead bodies. The lights are off and the curtains drawn further closed than seemed physically possible; the air con is off and the windows aren't open so the air is hot and stale; they groan at the sight of light when we enter, with different levels of enthusiasm. It's going to be just the two of us for dinner too.
Tired from the day--and on a caffeine/sugar crash after our delicious Vietnamese coffees--we aren't feeling like doing much at all, so we head to a well regarded local BBQ place for dinner called Luong Son Qun. It's kind of a Korean BBQ joint that has most animals on the menu.
We grab the beef and ostrich that you cook yourself on the charcoal grill on the table, some crunchy fried crickets (kind of like popcorn with legs; fried scorpion next time) and a couple of other things. With some cold Tiger Crystal beers on the side it's a pretty killer meal. Not cheap by Viet standards but significantly cheaper than the Sydney equivalent.
Back at the hotel everyone is still close to death. I crack some beers that I got from a convenience store because I hadn't seen before. They're pretty horrible. The other one not sick is starting to fade with every new beer I crack. What condition will he be in tomorrow morning? What condition will everyone else be in tomorrow? Saigon, you are a cruel mistress.