On Wednesday, I went out for dinner with 4 of my workmates to try out some of the infamous Vietnamese hot pot. I was under no illusions; it was never going to live up to the Lancashire hot pot I was raised on, but when in Rome…
I’m usually not very adventurous when it comes to trying Vietnamese food due to around one million bouts of food poisoning in the last 2 years; it’s made me a little cautious. But this particular evening I was feeling daring and convinced myself to at least try a taste of everything on the table. I’ve heard that the dysentery diet is the best around anyway…
We headed to a local restaurant on the Saigon canal called Quán Thúy Linh . And when I say canal, don’t assume I mean the beautiful and idyllic networks in the UK, but instead a water system that is fed directly through the city’s sewage system. Luckily, it hadn’t rained that day, so no nasty smells had been unleashed.
The hot pot was a concoction of vegetables, bamboo, beef, shellfish and noodles and was actually really quite delicious. Boiling a whole squid wasn’t the nicest of things to witness, neither were the wriggling antennae of the cooking king prawns, but at least everything was fresh. I also experienced my very first snail – nothing like the huge French delicacies, but instead thumbnail sized shells on which you had to suck to remove the hidden snail. Turns out my sucking abilities weren’t quite up to scratch though and after 5 failed attempts I gave up and instead resigned to visiting Paris next year.
While the food was delicious, it wasn’t the highlight of our night by a long shot. I’d been warned that the restaurant we were headed to was a special one, but no further elaboration was made. When I was first greeted by our wait-person though, it became quite clear why the place was so special. All the staff members were ladyboys (no offense intended, this is genuinely how the Vietnamese refer to a trans-gender person). All were dressed in the smallest denim hot pants I’ve ever seen, with tube top accompaniments, I was a little taken aback. Each staff member just screamed Sasha Fierce, oozing with confidence and style and the general atmosphere was a mixture of enjoyment and relaxed flirtation. Their heavy smoking as they worked left a lot to be desired though. Even though I can’t speak Vietnamese, I found their banter just hilarious to watch, their unintentional performances made my night.
Initially, I don’t know why I was so surprised, I guess I just don’t associate Vietnam with being so open with their sexuality; HCMC is no Bangkok. It is clear though that there is a definite rise in progressive attitudes amongst the locals – only yesterday, one of my 6 years old’s accused his friend of being ‘gay’ (in English nonetheless) just because he wanted to sing a song to me. Similarly, one of my university students has chosen her oral test topic to be about the treatment of homosexuals in Vietnam. I think this paints a very different picture of HCMC, in regards to sexuality, than say, 10 years ago.
For those hoping for photos of my night down by the canal, I regret to say that none were taken; 1) I thought it may have been deemed inappropriate and 2) I forgot my camera (ALWAYS CARRY A CAMERA!)
So instead, have a look at this lovely bridge I travelled over today:
Don’t fret though; I will most certainly be revisiting the glorious Quán Thúy Linh in the near future, and this time with a camera in tow.