I'm in Saigon's international airport drinking a $4 (74,000vnd) illy cappuccino while three swallows fly around the curved ceiling of the departures hall, which is paneled with acoustic tiles. Dave says they absorb sound and he is right, as he points out there is no echo in the whole long hall. I figure the $4 accounts for the nice view of the grassy runway which leads planes out of Paris of the East and off to other parts of the world.
We commemorated our last morning in Vietnam with Doner Kebab bahn mi eaten on our way up to have coffee at Highlands coffee (a prevalent coffee chain here). Coffee is a big part of Vietnamese culture, ca phe is drank thick and dark and strong. In fact an ad for instant Vietnamese ca phe showed a guy being punched in the face by his coffee cup, and it can feel just like that. Both Dave and I opt for the slightly less potent ca phe sua, coffee with a 1.5 centimeter or so layer of sweetened condensed milk. Mixed up and over ice it is a nice afternoon kick in the pants.
Most days we've been having a 'nosh.' Come 4 I'm ready for some coffee and Dave, let's be honest is always ready for a beverage. It gives the day a nice rhythm. One afternoon, even after having coffee with my friend from Hue, Mr. Khoa, we still wandered down to the river to have another round.
That's actually been one of the nicest parts of having David here, having the chance to introduce him to some of the people I've worked with over the last 6 months. It was pretty funny to see Khoa (who is just pushing 5 feet) walking on the street next to Dave. Ms. Ha, my tailor-friend in Hoi An also insisted on taking Dave and I to Cao Lau, a famous noodle dish from Hoi An. All the girls from the shop took us over to the market where we squatted on child-sized plastic stools. They all giggled as Dave's knees poked above the table and he housed two servings of the noodles.
Cao Lau is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. It consists of square noodles which are a bit soba-like, slices of pork, squares of crackling, and various herbs. You pour both rice vinegar and soy sauce on top and then doctor it with your choice of chile powder, chile paste, pickled chiles and shallots, or lime. It was one of those fantastic moments seeing Dave across the plastic table from me while we sat in the middle of the bustling chaos of a local market.
I have to give David a lot of credit for his stellar traveling skills. I think I had more frustrated moments than he did (especially when we turned around on our way out of Halong Bay to retrieve the forgotten fish). Not many people can hit the ground running in a country like Vietnam; he wasn't phased by much, even when confronted with crossing in front of walls of Vietnamese traffic.