Friday, April 29, 2011

Vietnam - Day 2: Lunch Lady & The Rex Hotel

Okay, so if you watch Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations, you might have heard of the Lunch Lady, a little woman in Saigon who makes lunch every day on the same street corner.  Here's a link:


Well our friend Tony scouted the city before we got there, and found her!  So on our first full day in Saigon, he took us to the Lunch Lady's street corner.  It was on this street corner:

Under this tree:

is this lady:

THE LUNCH LADY!  (With Tony)

...and it was worth going out of our way to find her!

Here are Ryan and Tony in the (child-sized) seats, waiting on the food!

On the menu for lunch:  noodles with chopped peanuts, cucumber, cilantro, tender pork ribs, and some shredded carrots.  It was SO tasty!

To drink: fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice.  CHEERS!

Spring rolls - with little shrimpy-shrimps.  I'm deathly allergic, so I passed on these, but I heard great reviews.  :)  They sure were pretty though!

This was also on our first full day in Vietnam, and was SUCH an amazing introduction to their food.  I mean, Ryan and I eat pho all the time here in OKC, but never do we branch out and try other things.  Now we certainly do!

After lunch, we went to the Rex Hotel, a Saigon landmark and a popular beer garden for expats in Saigon.  It was the land of the American-priced beer, but it was nice to be able to order a beer and it come with a chilled mug!  Plus, the view was kind of amazing.  On the ground floor of the hotel are the fancy shops in Saigon - Bulgari, Chanel, Cartier, etc.  With the insanely cheap prices in all of the city, I popped into Chanel to check...no luck.  They were about the same as in the US.  hehehe!  Hey, it was worth a try!

Tony suggested we try durian fruit while we were in Vietnam.  It is quite smelly, but some find it to be delicious.  We tried to pinpoint exactly what the smell was.  I think we finally decided it's a mixture of death, wet sweaty socks, wet dog, and fart  (I know - super delightful, right?)  Well, since it was SO smelly, the hotel didn't even allow it in the building, so the closest we could come was in ice cream form.  Here is Ryan about to try it.  (Notice Tony smirking to the side).

Unsure about the flavor...

Well, there's no photo of my trying the ice cream, but I will tell you right now, it was nasty.  Not like, "I prefer not to eat that"-nasty, but literally barf on the table nasty.  Ew.  Ew.  Ew.  And once you know what the smell is like, I swear I could sniff it out from miles away.  Needless to say, the container sat on the table just like so until the waitress came by, laughed at us, and took it away.  Hilarious. : /

So I washed that taste out of my mouth with a delicious Saigon beer.

Look, the crown is on Ryan's head!  I crack myself up.  It took me a bit to line him up, and when he finally figured out what I was doing, he was not necessarily amused.

Headed to sightsee some more.  Look at the electric poles.  This definitely looks up to code.

Since we sell motorcycles and scooters for a living, we were super impressed with all the scooters around town.  We found this local Vespa dealer, and of course, had to stop in!

They don't have this color in the US.  I WANT ONE!!!!

They do have The Coffee Bean though!

And it was clean in Saigon.  I was surprised since there were so so so many people.  But workers literally sweep the streets of debris, and it is quite tidy.

I did find a pepper that they missed, though.  Sigh.

Saw this guy chilling on his scooter.  I wondered if he found that particular wall to stare at because it made him feel like he was in the countryside??

Just reading the evening news.

This is what he was turned away from.  haha!

Finally, after this day full of going going going, we went to dinner with Tony's family, and we tried banh xeo for the first time.  It is essentially a Vietnamese crepe, filled with whatever you want.  It comes out as a GIANT crepe/omelet looking thing, and you just break off a piece to eat and wrap it up in a wasabi leaf (so so good - just like a bit of lettuce (actually more like the consistency of a mint leaf, if that makes sense) that you wrap the crepe in.  Kind of reminded me of Pei Wei and the lettuce wraps, but far tastier.

I'm pretty sure one was "the good one"--made with shrimp and other seafood (again, which try to kill me), and the "jenn one" which was vegetarian.  Not that I have any problem with that - in fact, I am appreciative that Tony and his family were with us to keep me from dying of anaphylactic shock!  Plus, I had a 7-UP, which is always refreshing.  We were seated on the front porch of the restaurant, in hopes of picking up a breeze.  By this time, it's probably 9 PM, we've been walking around all day seeing the sights, and we are super jet-lagged.  This food was probably so much better than I remember, but I was exhausted and only ate probably 1/4 of the banh xeo!

Since we used airline miles to get to Vietnam, we were kind of at the mercy of American Airlines.  For this reason, we arrived in Saigon a full day before the rest of the group.  (The extra day is this one I've just finished describing here!)  Tomorrow, another 5 members of the group are arriving, and then the final two arrive a few days after that.  I really liked the extra day - we got to sleep and see some sights.  The only thing that was weird is that the next day, we were pretty well rested, and the newest 5 people were running into the extreme exhaustion that is caused by 22 hours in the air!

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