Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ashtanga Yoga Saigon

Calling all Yogis and Yoginis!
Kimberly Roberts, authorized ashtanga teacher is conducting a yoga workshop at Breathing Room Yoga in Saigon on the 25th - 27th Feb 2006. Please check the website for more details, and register soon as places are limited. This is a rare opportuinity to deepend your practice with a master teacher - see you there!

I spent last week in Phnomh Penh, the capital of Cambodia, such a raw, delicious, and confusing city. In the mornings, I lazed in the tourist cafes on the river side, enjoyed the breeze and the coffee, and rediscovered the joy of reading the newspaper and the delights that the Cambodian press has to offer. The Phnomh Penh Post is so much better than the communist bollocks we are drip fed in the Vietnam News (second worst paper in the world, narrowly defeated by the English daily in Myanmar which is truly, truly horrible). Here are a selection of some of my favorite stories….

Dec 17
Police arrested Thanny (39) after he stabbed two people with a knife during a midnight argument in Sralao Village, Kamp Thom province. Police Officer Chief Rom Sovichea said he was drunk on palm wine and was trying to defend himself after the victims stepped on his foot while dancing at the local disco.

Dec 18
A fisherman Chhun Chhay (46) was shot dead while he slept with his wife in Boeng Chhoukvan Village, Kamp Thom province. His wife told police an unknown man opened the mosquito net and shot him because people were unhappy with him as they thought he was a sorcerer.

Dec 22
Kim Thuon (28) was taken to a provincial hospital yesterday after cutting his testicles off in a pagoda in Kamp Cham district. A pagoda chief said that he probably had a mental problem.

Jan 3
Khat Chan (32) was knifed and injured in a revenge attack at 915 in Sway Pak Village, Prey Veng province. Chan told police that an unknown man appeared from a forest and chopped him three times while walking home from a neighbor’s house where he had been a dinner guest after organizing a search that led to the recovery of a missing cow.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm still here!

Hi everyone....

Been getting a few 'are you still alive?' emails from friends, family and lots of strangers..... so this is just to confirm, that, Yes! I am indeed alive, but have been on a yoga bender (yes, it's just like an alcoholic bender, only better for your liver - and the rest of you for that matter...) and that hasn't left much time for blogging. Being a yogi is time consuming passion. Being a blogging yogi is even harder!

Did manage however to take a trip with Minh and a million of his closest relatives back to their ancestral village near Quy Nhon - gorgeous spot, rainy, ringed by mountains, buffalo in the rice fields, muddy roads, tiny well trodden tracks, quaint houses, men with long beards smoking pipes, giant pigs and free range chickens. Very interesting and a blog in itself so I won't spoil it. I'll get the blog done soon and post it next week.

Christmas was spent at the Sailing Club in Mui Ne. 4 days of hot sun and cold drinks, early morning strolls, late afternoon naps. Good friends. Low key. Groovy Christmas.

The yoga studio is great and we have welcomed back all our students for 2006.....already this year we have raised money through one charity workshop to pay for a cleft palate operation through operation smile and it's only 6 days into 2006. We have now paid for 4 operations since we opened 4 months ago - a credit to our wonderful yoga community here at Breathing Room...Also had a guest teacher here for a couple of classes - Michelle Bradley - a wonderful, talented, generous teacher..and I thoroughly enjoyed being taught instead of teaching....Now in the middle of an ashtanga workshop for 6 days with Chris Gladwell which is shaping up to be a transformative experience....

So, more later when I get my internet reconnected at home and I fix my camera so I can download my photos from the past few months.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Glittering Sexpats

There are backpackers. There are business travellers. There are expats, and there are sexpats. Sexpats are washed up old perverted wrinklies who you see sitting in Pham Ngu Lao guzzling cheap beer pissing their lives away. Vietnam is an easy place to settle, you can get a crappy job teaching english, live in a $3 a night dive, and spend your free time having sex with young girls or boys for a bargain price.

Maybe things will change now that Garry Glitter has been arrested trying to board a flight from Saigon to Bankok. He is being held for questioning after having sex with underage girls in Vung Tau, and feeling up teenage barmaids. Classy. This type of thing goes on unreported so often here in Vietnam. I just hope that a high profile case like this will bring an end to this gross behaviour from these losers who mock the privelege of calling Vietnam their home away from home.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I felt a strong undulation in my bedroom just after midnight. The walls and floor moved in a steady ripple for a few seconds, I jumped up, unsteady on my feet and wondered if it was possible that the dramatic shooting finale from the DVD I was watching had been a little bit realistic.

But no, the water in my fish tank was slopping from side to side and my fish were struggling....

Thanh Nien newspaper reports that indeed an earthquake measuring 4.5 - 5 on the richter scale was located just off Vung Tau, to the south of Saigon in the early hours of this morning. I've lived through many earthquakes, almost daily when I lived in Taiwan, but they freak me out much more living here! My neighbours houses are held up with bamboo poles! And one of my walls has just been patched up after cracking in the rain! What would a big earthquake under Saigon do? Uh, a horrible thought - fingers crossed....

Did anyone else feel it last night? My fish are undergoing trauma counselling...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Weeping Virgin (?!)

I'm hearing rumours around town from friends that the statue of the Virgin Mary was weeping in Notre Dame Cathedral on Dong Khoi and Le Duan last night.....

I was out last night and we couldn't get parking at Citimart, and the roads were unusually packed, even for a Sunday. I didn't head towards Dong Khoi street but friends say there were crowds outside the church trying to get in. I did notice a very elderly woman being helped across the street by her family and she had a beautiful crystal rosary around her neck, I noticed it at the time, without thinking too much of it.

Has anyone else heard this story? I'm heading down town very soon, so I will swing by and see what I can find out.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The snake charmer

It's the simple community things that happen right outside my front gate that always rock my world and get me blogging again. This morning was no different.

As I cleared the mailbox this fine Thursday morning, I noticed a riverside commotion outside my gate.

I ambled over to the young, male, working class crowd and peered through their feet to try and see what was going on....

It was a snake charmer! And upon spying me, the conspicuous blonde woman in the crowd, pulled out his biggest snake from the cage strapped to the back of his motorbike and begged me to take a picture.

But, on closer inspection, I realised that this toothy grinned character was no charmer at all - but a reptilian butcher. That pile of muck there on the old newspaper is snake guts.

He was making snake wine - Vietnamese Viagra -He sliced the snakes right down the middle, and carefully washed the bodies in a jar full of river water.

He then began to delicately curl the snake bodies inside a clean glass jar, taking more care to roll them perfectly around the contours of the vessel than a rastafarian takes curling his dreadlocks on top of his head.

Once the jar was full, he began to add herbs and spices, woodchips and god knows what else to the mix. In fact, he also added a dead bird whose head had been chopped off. No-one appeared to be concerned that the next flu epidemic that may kill 150 million people will start in Vietnam from the virus in birds. Hell! it's going to start right outside my house!

The man for who was buying the concoction looks on eagerly. His son, just home from school, watches with interest as he rests his hand on Dad's shoulder. He passed over a 500,000 dong note to pay for the snake wine - about $31.00 - a lot for a construction worker.

The crowd look on with eager anticipation. The brew will be shared with them a year from now, after it ferments for extra 'power'.

The plastic water bottle (brand name - 'vital') was full of blood. It was passed around the crowd for us to admire the consistency and color (which to me looked like raspberry coulis).

The medicine man cleaned up the guts, blood and feathers and threw them into the river. He then packed up his little mobile butchery, and drove off down the back streets to service the Viagra needs of more Vietnamese men.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Typhoon Damrey

Well the rest of the world is focussed on the tragedy that hit the southern American states, we seem to have only just realised that Typhoon Damrey is now right on our doorstep here in Vietnam. BBC news reports that

"...the typhoon packed winds up to 198 km/h (125mph) when it hit Hainan, making it comparable with the 193km/h (120mph) gusts recorded when Hurricane Rita hit the Texas-Louisiana coastline over the weekend..."

Hainan, for those of you without a map, is a Chinese island just off the north eastern coast of Vietnam. And now it is heading straight for Nam Dinh and Thanh Hoa province, in northern Vietnam.

Three hundred thousand people have been evacuated from the coastline. In contrast to America, Vietnamese households would have been able to completely empty their houses of most of their posessions, and their entire family on the back of a 100 cc motorbike! Most families don't have more than a change of clothes, a few chickens, agricultural equipment and a matress. The value of these things is arguably greater than that of the family in Texas seen loading their TV into their SUV complaining that they "only had room for one of their TV sets..."

We are now waiting patiently to see what destruction it brings. Remembering of course, that in rural Vietnam, you are doing pretty well if your corrugated iron roof is attached to the walls of your house with large rocks and a bit of string, and if you have running water, you are doing very well.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's not the Mississipi, but....

For the past two days the river has flooded my entire neighborhood. The Saigon River is able to be smelt from great distances. It's color is black. It's consistency is somewhere between condensed milk and treacle. It is to put it bluntly - quite gross, but life goes on in my neighbourhood. All of these pictures were snapped by me standing in shin deep water from my front gate. Pictures speak louder than words – check it out!

Thanh awoke from his cafe siesta and wondered why his mates had abandoned him.

As Hanh cycled home she had a feeling she had left the bath running.

Viet and Phoung were certain that they had parked their motorbike beside the river.

DJ Honda

There was a crazy noise outside my front gate this afternoon. Treading cautiously as I made my way to the front gate, I peered outside to find DJ HONDA entertaining the neighbors with his dial a disco strapped on the back of his Grandads motorbike.

DJ Honda brings the Karaoke to you. Available for hire for 2000 dong a song (that is about 14 cents).

If your interested in hiring him for your next Thao Dien soiree, as muzak whilst you scoff canapes, contact me and I can get his number for you. He also eats fire, which unfortunately I did not manage to capture on film, but I believe that is a thousand dong extra.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Chasing the Dragon

Last Sunday was the lantern festival in Vietnam. The lantern festival coincides with the brightest moon of the year, and (to a foreigner) is visibly celebrated in 3 ways:

1. By eating mooncakes (I don’t recommend them. A nose wrinkling mash of sour and sweet: boiled egg, pork, lotus seeds, MSG, and other goodies hidden in a sickly sweet glazed bun)
2. By purchasing paper lanterns and letting children play with matches.
3. By Dragon Dancing

Some of you may be familiar with the Chinese custom of dragon dancing. A group of people move the head, body and tail of a dragon (made of parachute silk?) around in a frantic dance accompanied by the frantic banging of anything that can pass as a percussion instrument.

On Sunday evening, Minh and I set off to find a dragon – it was a first class mission. We jumped on the Lambretta and started to cruise the streets looking for dragons. Lo and Behold! At the intersection of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Dinh Tien Hoang we spotted 5 trucks with tons of people dressed in matching yellow outfits spilling onto the cab of the truck. We could hear the drums banging from within the cabin. We decided to chase the dragon, darting through the mad streets, trying desperately hard not to lose them.

The trucks: full of dragons waiting to be hatched, barrelling down the highway with us on our Lambreta in hot pursuit.

We passed stalls of vibrant lanterns for sale – quite a spectacle and much more fun than Christmas Eve at your local soulless shopping mall.

This man was so enthusiastic about his product - he seemed to take on the facial features of a lantern.

We pulled into a quiet neighborhood in district 10, and began to attract a lot of attention – yes, we were the weird foreigners on the 50 year old Italian motorbike who crashed the kids party. About 70 people spilled out from the trucks and started to assemble the dragons and the platforms that they would be dancing on. I think in Vietnam, little boys go to dragon dancing club instead of Scouts, and they were AMPED to stay up late and jump around and bang drums. I was too. Here are a few blurry photos that capture the frantic unpacking as they set up for their performance.

The dragons hatch - the kids unload the dragons from the truck.

Preening the dragon - adding the final touches to the dragons head.

And then the fun really began. Ten little midget dragons started dancing through the streets with the littlest kids being the ass of the dragon and they were shaking it – ‘oh yeah, shaking their ass like they just don’t care’. Then the Adults took over and proceeded to do crazy aerial acrobatics on a tiny platform lifting the kids up high into the air. It was in true Vietnamese style quite dangerous. There were hundreds of people crowding the streets cheering and laughing, and shouting over the cacophony.

The crowd watches the dragon as it dances overhead.

The dragons tail flies overhead and kids in the crowd employ some skillful balancing tactics to get a better view.

Mums admire each others babies, oblivious to the crazy dragon acrobatics that the dragon is performing nearby.

The grand finale, with the dragon writhing madly to quickening sound of deep bass drums.

After 40 minutes of moonlit madness - it was time to pack up. The little boys said goodbye and posed for millions of pictures with me, and the teenagers did their best with some inventive pick up lines.

Cute kids and two dragons.

The drive home was wild. Millions of moonstruck Vietnamese cruised the streets of Saigon bathing under the hypnotic moon. It was a long drive back through the suburbs of Saigon, the distant sound of drums, the glow of lanterns, the stench of motorbike fumes, the warm moony night.

The drive home was illuminated by a luminous moon high above the streets of Saigon.

Wierd creatures come out at full moon time - we were driving so fast I could barely tell what was real, and .....well, what is this strolling the Ho Chi Minh City sidewalks?

The very best party I ever crashed. Vietnam at it’s festive best.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

How to measure success

I have decided to quantify the success of my fledgling yoga business by the percentage of people who return after their first free class and purchase a concession ticket. So far, 100%!!!! Each happy yoga student has returned with a friend, who in turn returns with a friend…....and so it grows. There has been more than one class where nobody has turned up. I ‘hold the space’, turning the scheduled class into my own personal practice, and so far this week, have had students at every single scheduled class. I was just about to lose hope this morning when I arrived at An Phu Sports Centre to start teaching there, and the class was empty. I sat quietly until 8.30 and then an angel walked through the door. That’s how you start. One person at a time. Patience and a lot of positive thoughts.

It is so great to share something as positive as yoga with others. Many people here in Saigon need to do something healthy to negate the many challenging aspects of residing in this city. People don’t realize that they NEED yoga, until they feel the benefits from their first class. Then they’re hooked.

If you are in Saigon – I warmly extend an invitation to you to come and try a class. For FREE! Really! Just come and check it out. The website link is listed on the right hand side under ‘Breathing Room Yoga’.

Find creative ways to measure your successes. Do what you love. Learn from your mistakes. Believe in yourself.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Geomancer

Dr Thanh the elderly Geomancer arrived promptly at 9:30am, removed his patent leather shoes and hobbled into the yoga studio.  Clutching a rather trendy ruby red leather PUMA purse, he extracted a compass, a black marker, battered books that looked like they contained spells, a tape measure and a notebook and started measuring angles, walls, doors and windows, and staring softly at the garden.  His teeth were the color of tobacco and his fingers swollen like plump yams.

Minh’s father, upon hearing that I was opening the studio today panicked that we hadn’t consulted a Feng Shui expert, and that’s how we ended up with Dr Thanh analyzing the stuido’s chi, as we sat eating muesli for breakfast.

It was an extremely interesting experience, aided by the fact that Minh and I were frantically trying to translate abstract concepts from our rudimentary grasp of the Vietnamese language.

And, after an hour we had a list of changes that we had to make.
  • Keep the kitchen door shut as that is how we lost money, and it would stop us from fighting (we don’t fight – but prevention is better than cure….)

  • Attach a 31 inch piece of wood across the doorway to the office and write a prayer on it

  • Attach a 103 inch piece of wood across our French doors and write a prayer on it.

  • Move the desks into the middle of the room, and block off the most easy access route with two plants

  • Swap desks with Minh because I am older

  • Place the altar 180 cm above the ground opposite the French doors

  • Remove the lucky talismans above the doors from the old tenants and replace with shiny gold plated new ones (which I am afraid are so shiny they may start a fire)

After Minh’s dad handed him a fat envelope full of money he added that Minh and I would be rich and happy.  I guess these things cost extra.

Feng Shui like most things Asian is very trendy in the west, and I have read that companies spend thousands on hiring experts to come and balance the energy in their offices.  I’m sure none of these experts were nearly as cool as Dr Thanh.  He was the real old school Vietnamese geomancer.  At departure, he whispered quietly to us not to tell our neighbors, because he would get in trouble with the Party for propaganda……

Friday, September 02, 2005

Breathing Room

I have been reading this blog called ‘How I am becoming an astronaut’, which is a pretty impressive title…and am thinking of changing mine to ‘How I am becoming a Yogini’.  Not quite as impressive, but, I can comfortably stand on my hand with on earth with a g of gravity trying hard to bring me down.

So, I’ve been doing this: and I open on Monday.  It’s a dream.  It’s a business too, but I am measuring my success by my own fulfillment not dollars in the bank which is what I think we all should be doing.

Hard work, and a bit of a risk, but loving it all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Back from Yogalalaland

I’m Back

I floated back to Saigon on a cloud of peace, love, mung beans and yoga, and only realized I was back in the heart of Saigon when I awoke to find my taxi driving the wrong way down a 6 lane highway.

For those of you who didn’t know – I traveled to Bali for a month to do a Yoga teacher training. If you are only interested in Saigon, and not Yoga – STOP HERE…the rest is pure yogic revelation and divine insight.

The course was extremely intense, up at the crack of dawn every morning for pranayama (breath control) and meditation. An asana (yoga posture) practice followed that. Late mornings were reserved for yogic philosophy and self inquiry, early afternoons for anatomy, yoga therapy and teaching, and late afternoons for another yoga practice. Evenings were spent learning YogaContact (a form of rehabilitative massage) or watching yoga videos.

Yoga overdose! Normally I would have thought so, but I couldn’t get enough.

Yoga practice was periodically punctuated with lettuce, nuts and seeds. It was a completely vegan, wheat free, sugar free, all things fun and stimulating free diet. Some days it was pretty tough. But, I became so light, my eyes sparkled like I was newly born, my skin shone, even my hair curled gently! Since returning, I have indulged in more than one super cheesy pizza, but no meat – yet.

I don’t know if my personal Saigon Blog is the best forum for me to really express how incredible it was. I experienced one true miracle. I shed a lot of tears. I melted some solid anger that has taken me years to move. I observed 3 days of silence. I swam daily. I strolled through rice fields every morning. I bent myself into paperclip shapes with joy. I was blessed in holy water. I met Ateeka: my most special teacher, friend, guru, bhakti mother. I chanted and sang kirtan as loud as I could every day. I definitely woke God up, and let him know I was back! Yeah baby!

So, how bout some pictures then? Here are some random pictures from my teacher training.

Not a bad way to greet the new day.....the view from our ocean front yogashala in Chandidasa.

Mandala art works, that we did with Renee. Mine is the purple one with the red petals. It's called 'power'.

Getting blessed in sacred waters of the Ashram Lembah Bhayam, and singing to keep ourselves from catching pneumonia.

Blessings in the sacred spring.

The sublime, most incredible Ketut Arsana, at Ashram Lembah Bhayam.

My Bhakti sister, friend, guru: Ateeka, and the incredibly hillarious yogic anatomist - Will

My bungalow in Ubud. The open air design made everyone feel welcome, including the rice rats.

Ah, the swimming pool. You could find me here when I wasn't twisting myself into knots.

Asana adjustment class in our beautiful shala in Ubud. In the morning we were serenaded by a chorus of doves and roosters, and in the evenings, a symphony of carnivorous mosquitos.


Blokes do yoga too! And they wear skirts! The wonderful boys on our retreat - adding a bit of a balance.

Awahoshi, playing her beautiful crystal bowls for us - a divine experience.

The final goodbye. That's me at the front, looking concerned at my hand...I had just found a baby bird and it was resting in my open palm, much to my wonder and distraction.

My little bird, healed and resting in the garden, completely unafraid of people.

More pictures as I feel inspired. Working very hard towards new business opening this Monday! One guess what it will be? I'll keep you posted, and might see some of you for a spiritual workout.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Returning soon...

A little sad to discover that no-one even seemed to notice I was away. However, I haven't missed being 'disconnected' at all. In fact, it is incredible what you can really connect to without the distraction of a computer.

Returning back to Saigon on Thursday - and will update you all on photos and stories from the most MIRACULOUS month of my life here in Bali.

Overflowing with JOY and ABUNDANCE!

See you soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Holy Shit

Holy Shit!

Today my key chain protector David Beckham noticed some large round brown pine cone looking seed things underneath my Frangipani Tree.

I turned my head an inch to the right, and saw the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen in my life munching it's way through Frangipani leaves like it was last call at a Chinese buffet.

Not even David a-loreal-contract-is-not-worth-this-pink-perm can stop it.

Happiness is

....buying fresh flowers at the local market.

On a rainy, slightly gloomy day, get yourself down to your local market and buy some flowers.

Buy some for yourself, and some for someone else. Put them in your house, your office, your hotel room. Wear them in your hair. Give them to the nice lady at reception. Offer them at the temple. Use them as confetti. Give them to the cleaner. Brighten up the taxi. Give them to strangers.

How can you overlook this wonderful shopping opportunity? Flowers are stupidly cheap here. For example, these beautiful sacred lotus flowers were just 1000 dong each. That's around 6 cents a stem.

And these cheery sunflowers were just 3000 dong each - that's about 20 cents a stem.

Lotus flowers are suprisingly difficult to find in Vietnamese markets. The only market I have found them at is Ben Thanh, and you have to buy them before midday or they will all be sold out.

So, the next time you are having an introspective moment, or the toll of shopping and sightseeing is getting you down, wander into the local flower market. Appreicate the women, who, perched high on their little stools surrounded by colorful blooms, delight in sharing nature's short lived treasures.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Organik Vietnam

This is the way things are here in Saigon at the moment...

1. You have a great idea
2. You verbalise the idea "wouldn't it be a great idea if someone decided to (insert brilliant entrepreneurial idea here)......."
3. The next day a random flyer appears in a random place for the aforementioned new idea.

A few weeks ago I was lamenting the absence of a really good organic produce store here in Saigon. A place where you could stock up on health food products, vitamins, organic produce....... The very next day I picked up a flyer for Organic Vietnam, a company specialising in home delivery of organic vegetables from a certified farm in Dalat. I was so excited, I called immediately, but was waiting for my first home delivery before I praised it over the blogosphere.

This morning my delivery arrived! By a nice man with an overloaded motorbike! 8am! 3kg of succulent spray-free, human-pooh-fertiliser free vegetables!

dare-you to-mash-me-into-pasta-sauce tomatoes

promise-you-won't-cry onions

guaranteed-bird-flu-free eggplant

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Assed Copy

Pirated copies of Harry Potter have been making headlines of all the major newspapers today. Asking if it is available on the streets of Saigon, is like asking whether Ho Chi Minh was a communist. I caught up with Mr Nguyen (a real person who shares his name with about a quarter of all men in Vietnam) about his Potteresque experience on the mean streets of Pham Ngu Lao.

Rice Bowl: Why didn't you buy a full price original version at Fahasa on Saturday you cheap bastard?

Mr Nguyen: I doubt miss BILLIONAIRE Rowling will notice.

Rice Bowl: Where did you finally manage to purchase this copy?

Mr Nguyen: At an illegal copy bookstore in District One.

Rice Bowl: Was it openly for sale, or was it hiding behind a copy of the Communist Parry Manifesto?

Mr Nguyen: It was hiding. I had to give a complex series of hand signals and wait round the corner. On the cover, Dumbledore was disguised as Ho Chi Minh.

Rice Bowl: Nice. The cover photocopying looks pretty good, but a bit washed out. More importantly, how is the quality of the binding?

Mr Nguyen: I dont think it will last past the first week... (opens book and pages begin to fall out)... Actually it is really bad.

Rice Bowl: Does it have that sexy new book smell, or some other Vietnamese odour?

Mr Nguyen: It's got the skanky photocopy shop smell with a faint whiff of cheap toner cartridge.

Rice Bowl: I know you don't take drugs, or stay up to see the Sunrise at Lost in Saigon....Did you feel naughty buying goods on the black market?

Mr Nguyen: I'm still looking over my shoulder.

Rice Bowl: Have you checked the consistency of language in the book? For example does it change into Russian halfway through? And what about the pages in the right order? Too much to ask?

Mr Nguyen: I'm fairly optimistic

Rice Bowl: Thankyou for your time. And a word of caution, don't read while driving that motorcycle.

Mr Nguyen: (Already reading and quite distracted) Thankyou.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Cao Lao

Cao Lau. I lie awake dreaming about it.This is Vietnamese noodular deliciousness at it's best. Unfortunately, it is not available streetstyle here in Saigon. You have to travel a long way north to Hoi An to get it. So, when wedding duties called me northwards last weekend, I had 5 days and nights to get my tastebuds dripping for what was going to be a CaoLao fest. How many bowls could I consume in a weekend?

cao lau

This is Cao Lau. A bowl of Cao Lau consists of fettucini shaped rice noodles, lean grilled pork, crunchy mouthfulls of deepfried pork fat, bean sprouts, and some greens. The sauce at the bottom consists of an aromatic mixture of succulent pork juices and fish sauce. The ratio of greens to meat means that it can be enjoyed by vegetarians or detoxing yoginis. Try to have some patience to crumble a dry rice cracker over it, then add rice vinegar, then gently stir ......ah, you never actually finish mixing it properly as it is always in your mouth by then.

The noodles are traditionally made from the clear waters of the Ba Le well. The noodles made from this water are supposed to give you immortality, and work as an aphrodisiac......blah blah blah, it's all BS. Here is a picture of the famous well anyway. (It was totally dry when I looked where's all the Cao Lau coming from?)

But all Cao Lau is not created equal. Sometimes the meat is too lean. Sometimes it is cold. Sometimes they overdose on the mint. Sometimes they don't supply extra rice vinegar. But Miss Ly has perfected the Cao Lau. I have eaten over 100 bowls of her Cao Lao in my life, and have introduced her Cao Lau to well over 200 people. She knows her noodles. It is truly the best in town. She has moved from her groovy traditional style place next to the market, to 3 Nhi Trung Street. She will be back beside the market in September, after the government have finished renovating her place. Drop in, tell her I said Hi.

I managed to eat 5 bowls of her Cao Lau in a 72 hour stay. Not bad I reckon.