on sheet masks and my general dorkiness.

There is a chain of drugstores here called Guardian. I call them ‘drugstores” in the old fashioned way, though they don’t have a pharmacist’s counter. For actual pain and suffering, you would go to a pharmacist. In Saigon, there seems to be at least one pharmacist on every block, a lot of them with an outdoor drive-up counter so one’s lazy ass doesn’t even have to hop off their motorbike to get their meds.  But for toiletries, make up, vitamins, and a wide and sometimes bizarre variety of Korean and Japanese products (including but not limited to soaps and moisturizer made with snail mucus, red ginseng, and garden variety collagen enhancing crap) you go to places like Guardian.

There’s one near my house, and I went there today to stock up on Korean sheet masks (I hear these are all the rage in the US right now, and Guardian sells them for less than 50 cents a mask. I use one almost every day; in fact, I’ve got a tea tree oil one on right now as I type this).  They also sell a limited amount of L’Oreal and Maybelline products, as well as a couple of Asian brands made specifically for Asian skin tones.  After grabbing enough sheet masks to last a week or so, I ambled over to look at eyeliners, where I was immediately accosted - in a friendly way - by one of the store attendants who cooed at me sycophantly until I shooed him away. I like to shop in peace, and don’t like to be followed around a store, though that seems to be par for the course here and something I’ve had to get used to.

So I was busy looking at eyeliners, as you do, when I heard someone come in through the store entrance doors, muttering to himself in English. I glanced over and saw a young western dude with a cap on backwards standing there looking around wildly, an open Saigon Special beer in his hand. He then walked up and down each aisle furtively glancing from left to right, still muttering under his breath, something along the lines of “Where the hell is it?”. I glanced over at the willowy attendant who’d been hovering over me, who looked aghast and had backed up into the opposite corner.  After a few minutes of Beer Boy traipsing up and down every aisle, one of the women managers came marching out of the back room right up to him.

“You go next door”, she firmly announced to him, pointing at the far wall.

“Oh, back here?”, Beer Boy said, turning around and starting to walk towards the back of the store.

“No. Next door is pharmacy. That what you want, yes? Pharmacy?”

“Isn’t this a pharmacy?”, bleated out Beer Boy in the saddest voice I’ve ever heard.

“No. Next door. Now go”. And somehow she shoved him out the door without managing to spill a drop of his beer. I almost cheered and clapped in admiration of her skills.

This is not the first time I’ve seen westerners wandering around Saigon with open beers in their hands, or in various states of undress, or even barefoot. I can only assume that people fail to realize that this is a bustling, working city., not the Fort Lauderdale strip.  Who knows.


 I was invited to a caviar and wine-paired dinner last night, which was very exciting and hosted at a venue atop a building with the most fantastic view of Saigon (though I don’t drink that much anymore, which accounts for the absolutely rocking hangover I have today- free flow Taittinger will do that).  The luxe market is starting to boom here in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese are eager to spend money on wine and foods that were previously denied to them. There were a lot of industry people in attendance, a few food and beverage people I’d not seen in a while, so it was nice to catch up, plus I met a few other new chefs.  I say this a lot, but the Saigon F & B world is quite small and close knit, and is a joy to be a part of.  I sat down to dinner and nodded hello to the Italian across the table.  It wasn’t until two hours later that I realized he's a chef I’d met at least a dozen times before.

The only times I’ve met him were when he was working and always in uniform. This is the first time I’ve seen him outside of his kitchen, so he didn’t have a chef coat on and like a complete jackass I DIDN’T RECOGNIZE HIM. I know this seems odd to some people, but the reverse happens to me quite a bit. For example, I’ve had long conversations with people at parties I’ve catered for my boss, then seen them out in public and bounced up to them only for them to say, “I’m sorry, have we met?”. People don’t recognize me out of my chef coat in a mini skirt with my hair down and lipstick on, and then are so embarrassed by their gaffe.  I always find it humorous because it isn’t a big deal, but this is the first time I’ve done it to someone else, and I felt like SUCH a heel. Especially since I’d just seen him the previous night. I’m such a dork.


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