To write that Saigon is crowded for Kitty R. is as writing that the Earth is round; almost everyone knows that. However, for Kitty R. to hear about this is one thing, and to survive it, is another matter. Ho Chi Minh is not a pedestrian city; here are scooters that fill the urban space to the brim; all pavements are completely obstructed by parked mechanical two-wheelers. Kitty R. observes and inevitably participates in the street traffic with a certain fascination; it seems that there is absolute lawlessness here. Kitty R. is particularly annoyed that there is no division between the pavement and road, and when the street gets squeezed, unscrupulous drivers turn the pavement into an additional lane for themselves. Thus Kitty R. has to move out of their way all the time not only from the road, but also from the pavement (!). Ho Chi Minh is not a city where you can take a walk. But…
Just the first morning Kitty R. and Sir Last meet with J., an American, whom they met in Cambodia, and who currently lives in Saigon. J. takes them to the museum-teahouse, with its interior design reminiscent of the most elegant version of a grandmother’s basement. On the shelves are arranged herbs, seeds, leaves, and fruits, all enclosed in jars in multicolored mixtures. For 5,000 years, the Vietnamese nature mother has said that each of these mixtures has many health properties. For example, Kitty R. orders tea from snow lotus, which supposedly heals heart disease, lowers cholesterol, reduces fatigue, helps with back pain, reduces sexual problems and treats rheumatism (all at once?). Despite the charming arrangment (beautiful Chinese jug with floristic patterns and a tiny cup), Kitty R. relishes this tea reluctantly and even with difficulty, as the mixture has a very intense and bitter taste, invincible even with a solid honeycomb. Kitty R. looks through shelves filled with colorful potions and reads that they solve the problems of blood circulation, swollen ankles, poor eyesight, digestion or sweating, and even provide protection against miscarriage or general sexual life improvement. In the end, Kitty R. does not know if the drunk decoction from the snow lotus has a positive effect on her health, but it certainly increases her appetite. To be honest, much more than the tea from the snow lotus a few hours later Kitty R. appreciates a Vietnamese egg- coffee (a bit tiramiss, a bit divine, delicious!). In addition, the scent of passion fruit ice cream immediately makes her forget about the bitterness of the earlier lotus (read: immediately feels better).
In the evening, Kitty R. and Sir Last enjoy some art. A beautiful musical setting and various figures on the water, that is, they go to the Vietnamese puppet theater. Everything is happening there! The fisherman chases fish, water dragons play football, two swan-phoenixes rub their necks and an egg appears, a leopard-dog jumps on water and trees, a couple of people collect rice when a monster attacks them from the water depths, a man can’t defeat him, so the woman catches the monster with a basket (!). There is also a group of men sailing by boat, when a turtle emerges from the water, one of the men pulls a sword, a turtle comes to him and takes his sword, then the turtle with a sword in its mouth (?!) dances on the water! (According to the legend from the north of Vietnam, it’s the other way round: the turtle gives the emperor a sword to defend against the invaders …). If only Kitty R. knew Vietnamese, she would probably add to all these pictures an understanding of the context (legends, traditions and history of Vietnam). Thus, she is left with a bit of ignorance to fill her eyes with the pleasure of pure imagination. Awesome!
The next day Kitty R. and Sir Last come to Little Paris, the town of Da Lat. The location of the city at 1500m above sea level makes Kitty R. and Sir Last gasp for air (such an unbelievable change after a tropical climate that Kitty R. loses her voice for 4 days). Kitty R. is delighted by observing the ubiquitous teahouses, i.e. tiny tables with tiny chairs, small jugs where men seem to sit out all day long sipping green tea or coffee and enjoying countless cigarettes. Kitty R. and Sir Last enter the cafe and ask for tea, unfortunately the lady with slight surprise shakes her head firmly that only coffee can be ordered. Due to the lack of choice, they decide to have coffee with condensed milk, that is again in Vietnamese style (two sips and immediately +100 points to power and work of the heart, not some snow lotuses..). They quickly realize that the tea could not be ordered because it is always hot, in thermos, on every table… for free!