Tuesday, January 31, 2017


                                                                  (rex hotel saigon)

It's hot, but not as hot as Sydney at the moment. And humid, though not as humid as Sydney at the moment. And it's still late winter morphing into spring or rather dry into wet seasons - but there's a heaviness in the air, air that makes you aware of itself, air you can't escape, air with unpredictable wafts of incense and the sounds of soft oriental harps from who knows where.

Moreover it's Tet - a word I've never understood except in the American war context (and it was the American War, not the Vietnam war into which I was drafted) but now I know it means the Vietnamese New Year, their most important cultural celebration. And it is in full swing.

We are in District 1, at the Rex Hotel Saigon, a comfortable early-mid 20th Century hotel (state run I am told) and it's very moi - a sort of French Raffles without the gardens. Wonderfully comfortable rooms.

It's straight up to the Rooftop Gardens for a drink and some breeze as below, on the Street of The Flowers, the crowds of families and young people mainly are swelling as night slowly creeps over this huge city.

By dark it's immense. Throngs. Watch your pockets.

This parade of lights and flowers goes for blocks, and blocks, as far as the eye can see and the ear can hear.  But we're fading fast - there's a four hour time difference and well, we're not as young as we used to be.

A few floors up on the other side of the street, up concrete stairs with heavy wooden railings, into another roof garden ...

... where, lo and behold, there appears two musicians and the source of that lovely harp music which lingered through the night and truly, was the first thing I heard next morning, somehow from somewhere, if not in a dream. I swear.

And all this is overseen, from his place in front of the law courts, in front of the hotel, by Ho Chi Minh

and by The State.

(Just for the record the hotel wi-fi is: download 48Mbps; upload 52Mbps; ping 3 ms. Think about that Malcolm Turnbull. Innovative my arse. Start with the basics, and sometimes, just sometimes, that means the private sector isn't god.)


Anonymous said...

Organology alert: the instrument played by the woman looks like a zither rather than a harp. What's the difference? I couldn't at first say but after a bit of interwebbing I'd say that in a zither the strings are parallel to the sound box, whereas in a harp they are at an angle. This one is called a đàn tranh.

No idea though about the instrument the man is playing. Looks like a kind of "moon guitar" but unlike any I could find on the internet it has 5 strings.

wanderer said...

Good one M. Thanks. Time poor here so much appreciated. I'd given little thought to the instruments and was preoccupied by the sounds, which we're lovely and gentle, and why they were there. There was no sense of money involved. Actually, no-one else showed the slightest interest except some young children, and me.