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Welcome to Ho Chi Minh – Part III

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh – Part III

East India Story is proud to publish this for the first time. This is the 1st and 2nd chapters from the soon to be released book by Sashi Sherpa. Find out their experience when they reached Vietnam.

After landing in Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon previously, before officially being renamed in 1976, we realized that our perception about the country took almost 360-degree turn. When you hear the name Vietnam- what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Endless paddy fields, pristine beaches and that typical stereotyped image of men/women working on the field or riding bicycle in that famous traditional cone-shaped hat, right?

Of course, we Indians, also take pride in the fact that we are considered to be a much-developed nation than them. But trust me, things were absolutely different than our capability of thinking. Ho Chi Minh was a modern city, clean and well-managed, too. But above all, their cleanliness impressed us a lot.

Our driver wearing a surgical facemask was waiting for us at the arrival gate of Tan Son Nhat international airport, holding aplacard with my name on it. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to bother about the stark difference between me and my colleagues’ face. It took us a while to realise that his action was actually the direct result of the fact that Saigon was an extremely cosmopolitan city, with people from different nationalities peacefully co-existing.

For him seeing a group like us was just another normal thing. This was the city which still had massive traces of French inheritance left due to the history of being colonized by them. And of course, who doesn’t know about the famous Vietnam War highly interfered by America. Phew! Well, let’s not delve too much into the history.

While going towards our hotels – we all were excited and our eyes were everywhere on the road -literally trying to devour it. It happens every time I land on a new soil! That excitement level is a completely different kick, indescribable in words.

“Waahhhh…look at those girls…?” my male colleague whistled. Me and my other female colleague both looked at him at the same time.There was a strange twinkle in his eyes; I guess if happiness had a face, well that’s how it probably would have looked like. If there was enough space in the car, he probably would have broken into an impromptu jig, as well.

When we also saw the girls in the direction where he was looking at: if I was a straight man, my jaw too would have stayed open, drooling at them. Absolutely slender, glowing skin and fashion sense that could give a run for money to any fashion models was how theses Ho-Chi-Minh girls looked like.

“Bro, can you move your face away from my bag. Your saliva is dripping on my bag,” Saraniya, the female colleague of mine, always ready to take a friendly jibe at him, teased.

Ashish, who was no less in giving it back, replied, “Put that bag which looks as sad as your face away from me then. It’s not every day that I get to have a view like this,” he gave her a slight push.

“Ha-ha…get down from the car and come walking with those girls, you forever horny guy!”

Just then he spotted another two girls sitting and enjoying their beverage in a small, cute looking café on the roadside-he let out another long whistle. One was wearing a hot pant with a simple tee and the other one was wearing a green-coloured crop top with matching skirt- and those body-hugging clothes were doing an absolute justice to their slim bodies and pretty faces.

“Wow…girls in Saigon are actually very pretty and quite fashionable. I think we have to dress up really well here,” I said looking at Saraniya.

Before she could reply, my other colleague butted in, “Sashi, don’t tell her. She will still look the same.”

“Shut up, you gorilla. Look at yourself first,” she charged in.

“Shushhh…you guys are annoying the driver,” I scolded both of them. Being the eldest, I thought I could wield some power. But who was I kidding? They were like teenage kids who were on their first trip away from their home -both of them laughed almost giving vibration to the whole vehicle and also giving a slight scare to the driver too, who was now watching us with his slightly frightful eyes from his front mirror.

These two would argue, left no chance to pull each other’s leg- well, not exactly like cat and dog fight, meaning not a physical one but that constant banter. However, the fact was, they loved each other’s company; while Ashish was ever ready with his harmless snide comments and jokes on people, places, to everything that the universe has to offer, and Saraniyawas ever ready to laugh at it- laughter that was extremely contagious and loud enough to be heard from miles away. Willingly and sometimes, unwillingly, I would end up becoming part of their comic family.

Now don’t get me wrong; they are not couple, have never indulged into any ‘funny acts’ in past or ever likely to date. I feel like I have understood one human psychology for sure- when you work in the same company for over five years and with the same set of people- trust me, the chances of dating from amongst those people is very rare. If law of attraction did not work in the first few years: after crossing that threshold of five years, it’s next to impossible. They now become like your family members- you pick on them but you don’t date them.

Also, in a small organization,chance of love flourishing between workers of opposite sex is almost nil. I will tell you the reasons:

Firstly, the amount of work you have in such workplace barely gives you a time even to bat an eyelid – you are doing everything, from being your own runner boy to being the manager. Thus, no time to entice anyone.

Secondly, let’s say, even if you get attracted to your co-worker in the first few days but the next day, your crush sees you getting blasting from your boss for the shoddy work you submitted and coming out red face from the adjacent conference room. Man!! Will that not be embarrassing? If you are not into any kind of such fatal law of attraction- you could still be walking out of that conference room like a boss and tell the next colleague in the queue, with smug on your face, “It’s your turn now to face the music.”

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Thus, you come out as superefficient worker with multiple skills but seldom as a forlorn lover.

It took about 20 minutes for us to reach the hotel which was in the heart of the city- making all the popular places in town, close by. Saraniya and I shared one double room, while Ashish had his own paradise in single room.

We decided to pamper ourselves: applied all kinds of face sheet masks, took extra-long bubble bath followed by good two hours of power nap, restored back our energy and we were ready to explore the city. Three of us, dressed in our best outfits- we were ready to live the night. At least, that’s what we felt!

Just a block away from our hotel was a street, filled and lined with spa shops. Each of these shops was decorated with the best of the lightings, colours, designs to oust one another. However, their best weapon was a group of girls, that each of this spa, placed in front of their door.

They all were attractive, make up on point and adorning dresses that revealed just about the right amount and still keeping a lot to guess. From shinning violet colour to sea green- different spa had their own uniform colours and maybe because they were all so beautiful; even those extremely loud colours still looked good on them.

“Memmm…issspaaa…” (Vietnamese accent) they started approaching me and Saraniyaand strangely enough, they did not ask our male colleague at all. We could barely walk one metre without being approached by girls from different spa shops. Honestly, I felt bad; coming from a sale and marketing background, spanning over a decade, I could see that desperation for sale in their eyes.

The other thing was: we all had travelled to Vietnam in the beginning of the year 2020 when this horrible pandemic called Corona had just about started making waves but no one had predicted then, that it’s reverberation was yet to go on for a long time, making colossal amount of people lose their livelihoods and dent the world economy that would require a massive repair. Until then, this deadly virus was more or less concentrated only in China.

But the effect of this could be seen on the streets of this beautiful city which would be, otherwise in normal circumstance, bustling with crazy number of crowds. It wasn’t totally empty but one could see that business was not going as usual. The plea in the eyes of these girls narrated the sad story.

I have been that kind of person who cannot walk past without getting affected by such things.  My head was filled with such thoughts- when I saw one white guy coming from the opposite direction and the next thing I knew, he got ambushed by this group of girls from a spa named Chu Chu. For a moment, my heart almost skipped a beat, thinking he was getting attacked or something.

Also read: Identity Crisis – Part II – Frowning Officer

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