3/12/18: Salsa Lessons In Saigon

I woke up feeling ok– the bloating was gone– so I went for a run.

It was REALLY hot and humid and not so pleasant. I ran 7 miles (see my route here).

I ran through Tao Dan Park for the last bit of my run, which was nice. I saw people doing tai chi, working out on the public exercise machines, and ballroom dancing. It was so cute!

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On Hoang Sa road

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ballroom dancing!

I had breakfast on my hostel’s roof, where I met a couple people. One guy said he was going to a salsa lesson later and invited us to join. I was intrigued, so we made plans to meet up later that night.

I went to i.d. cafe to work. I ordered a soy milk latte, but it tasted bad. However, it did come with an Oreo!! Finally a cookie that I can actually eat.

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I got lunch at Phuc Quang Chay, which was good but the portions were a bit small.

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I dropped off my stuff at the hostel and got a banana & strawberry smoothie from an unmarked, unnamed place right by it. It was so smooth, creamy, and cold. Freaking good deal for 25,000 dong ($1).

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Coconut galore at the cafe

Smoothie in hand, I walked over to the War Remnants Museum, which shows images, relics, and stories from the Vietnam War.

The first floor had a big emphasis on how opposed the rest of the world was to the war– you’d stand in front of an image of “people in Norway protesting the war,” and then walk a foot to your right and stand in front of an image of “people in Korea protesting the war,” and on and on.

The other two floors display images of agent orange victims, atrocities committed to Vietnamese citizens, and the weapons used.

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Entrance of the museum

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The most powerful room for me was the agent orange room. Right after you leave the room, filled with hundred of graphic images of those affected by agent orange, you enter a room where agent orange victims are personally selling their artwork.

I honestly didn’t know much about the Vietnam War and all the horrific acts committed by the Americans. I had no idea that so many civilians were killed. The museum was really impactful, especially now that I’ve been through many of the towns and walked through the rice fields affected by the war.

Although the museum was certainly educational and eye-opening about certain aspects of the war, I thought the museum could have done a bit more work on explaining the background of it. I walked away from it with a limited understanding of why the war started, who supported the Viet Cong, who the liberation army was, etc.

I went back to the hostel and recorded the intro/outro for my podcast. One of my dorm mates walked in on me twice, and I’m pretty sure she thought I was weird/sketchy because I would awkwardly stop talking with a mic in my hand.

I went to meet Trang for dinner. She had reached out to me on IG when she saw I was in HCMC, and offered to take me out. We went to Pi Vegetarian Bistro, where she took the reigns and ordered all her favorite dishes to share. We got seaweed rolls, green mango and mushroom tempura salad, mushroom tempura, lemongrass & tofu with fresh lolot leaves.

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Mango salad
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Mushroom tempura

It was so nice to chat with her! She was really inspiring, too. She started at Peta in Manila, and now she works with the Humane Society, implementing different programming throughout Vietnam.

I went back to the hostel to meet with Vladym and another guy, Caspien, to go to the salsa class.

We got to Cuba La Casa del Mojito and went to the bar to get a drink, but everything was so expensive. I got a Heineken for 60,000 dong, which is quadruple the normal price for a beer.

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Me, Vladym, Caspian

We started our lesson promptly at 9 pm.

We all got in a circle, matched up with a partner, and learned the basics. Arriba, abajo, un torro, dame, and some others I can’t remember…

It wasn’t too hard to learn, but our teacher was a bit of a psycho and was yelling at us the entire time. If one person made a mistake, she would get SO angry and make us start over.

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Some of the guys were better than others… some were way off beat, some couldn’t remember all the moves, and some were natural leaders who I actually felt comfortable with.

One of the guys was really pissing me off because he was doing the moves wrong, but kept telling ME I was doing them wrong and was super stubborn about it. Like no dude… YOU’RE wrong. Ugh.

After the lesson, it opened up into a party.  WOW everyone was so talented!! They seemed like such beginners in the class, but then BOOM out of nowhere they were pro salsa dancers. I was so confused and impressed. Everyone seemed so comfortable and confident dancing, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before.

I’ve only seen people in clubs who either don’t dance or aren’t comfortable dancing, but then here there were all these people being so intimate, so relaxed, so skilled. I really could not comprehend it. I felt like I was in an alternate universe.

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I failed at documenting this

At one point we did a group dance where one person led at the front, and we all followed. I loved that– the moves were more hip-hop than salsa, so I felt way more comfortable.

I danced a couple times with various people. I enjoy salsa because the guy leads, so even if you have no idea what you’re doing or how to salsa (me), you just have to follow the guy and it’s easy enough.

We left around 11:30 to go to a bar called Blanchy’s, but it was closed so we taxied home.

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One thought on “3/12/18: Salsa Lessons In Saigon

  1. I have such good memories of Saigon. I went to the 101st best restaurant in Vietnam (as voted by somebody). Great view, great fish….beer in cans though…oh well.

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