Rainy day for nostalgia

Rain, for me is a good excuse to find a new hiding places. This cute cafe, at Nguyen Trung Truc street in Saigon, had a 50 year old reel to reel tape machine, playing songs by Khanh Ly, a popular singer from the early 1970s. Back in those days, Khanh Ly used to run a cafe at the the nearby Dong Khai Street. The cafe was a lively gathering place for students, artists and musicians. Bui Vien (the current evil backpacker area) was where they had many local clubs, and singers like Khanh Ly used to sing there. She also performed impromptu concerts on the stairs in front of local universities - singing songs lamenting the war. I hope the tape machine could turn into a time machine and teleport me to those days. Khanh Ly had some following in Japan too, here is a song in Japanese.

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Street tofu in Saigon

Walking into the alley is always wonderful. Fresh tofu with coconut, ginger and tapioca garnish - costs 25 cents.  For the less adventurous, there is always the Doraemon tofu at a supermarket.

The Saury fish festival in Meguro, Tokyo

Just as I land in Japan , NHK shows a documentary about cats in a small town in North Vietnam. Now I miss Vietnam again. I better not turn on the TV today, they may make me miss more of my homes. Today Meguro (my home in Japan) is smokey, but we needn't fear. There is no fire but it is the Sanma Matsuri (saury fish festival), where people come outdoors and grill saury fish. The festival is based on a Edo times story about a lord who got addicted to the taste of grilled saury fish served to him by local farmers, while on a hunting trip over here - Meguro used to be farmland and hunting area for the nobility then. When he got back to his castle - his chefs prepared the best saury fish in the land, but for the lord, the taste could not compare to the one that farmers in Meguro grilled in their humble settings.

Should I draw the strange dark object?

In Singapore, my sometimes lunchtime places are in the Korean enclave. There is a little mischievous kid who darts in and out of a cafe I am at. I try to speak little Korean with her. Though amused (she must wonder what is this large dark object making familiar sounds), she hardly has patience to listen to a full sentence before she darts out to slay another monster. The kid came by and left me this drawing. Now, I am wondering what to draw for her.


The Drunkard's alley in Tokyo

I like cities that have secrets. Not too far from the world famous Shibuya crossing in Tokyo is a hidden away place that not many go to - the drunkard's alley. This alley has dozens of small bars - a bit like Golden Gai. It's like you are back in the 1960s.

Have an affair with my city

I encourage you to have an affair with Saigon. I promise I won't be jealous. You walk into a narrow alley at 14 Ton That Dam, climb up a decrepit staircase, with the rain water dripping, and an odd cat playing hide n seek with you. Explore the little shops and cafes, say hello to the holdout residents. 

My home in Saigon, the Japantown

My neighborhood is probably one of the last remaining Japantown anywhere. I love such places where two or more worlds collide and function in a zen like balance. This is where I eat more Japanese food, speak more Japanese,and make more Japanese friends compared to Tokyo.

Teru Teru Bozu for sunny days

Meet the Teru Teru Bozu or Shine Shine Monk. He is a home made amulet that you hang outside wishing for a rain free day - a custom popular with farmers in old days Japan. These days kids hang this to have a rain free picnic days. When I was a kid, I wished that it rains and floods on picnic days - that way we would have an even bigger adventure.