(The piece below was originally posted in July of 2009. I’m re-posting a new and improved version of the original as part of an ongoing holiday retrospective–not so much for the writing but for the interesting information it provides readers who have never traveled to Southeast Asia. Hope you enjoy.)
In Vietnam I’ve been enjoying the most amazing tropical fruits—not just the mango, which I adore and is available in the US—but also others I had never tasted before visiting Southeast Asia.
During my first month in Saigon, I tasted the rambutan—which I’d describe as a fuzzy, strawberry-looking fruit—red leathery skin with soft spines, small oval shape, the size of a large seeded grape.
The fruit inside is white, nearly translucent, sweet and slightly acidic—quite tasty.
Also in the last week, I’ve purchased mangosteen from a woman who operates a fruit stand at the end of our block. These, I must admit, are the most amazingly succulent fruit I have ever tasted. With a deep purple peel and large leathery leaves on top, the white pulp separates like segments of an orange and nearly dissolves into a nectar-like liquid in the mouth, undoubtedly divine.
So, Sara, who should be pleased by my consumption of something other than bread, has been in Hanoi for more than a week, leaving Lucy and I l alone in Saigon to deal with my neighbor’s funeral music.
It all began in the early evening on Friday with what I thought was a band, one I assumed must have been playing at the micro-brewery beside my apartment. Mind you, I had never before heard music from this establishment or been bothered by any noise from the place that remains open long after I go to bed. But when the music began again the following morning around 7, I realized it could not be coming from my suspected source.
Later that morning when I was finally able to communicate my question through a primitive form of sign language I use with my non-English speaking cleaning lady, the explanation came in two words, “Dead man.”
But———–when the music continued incessantly on Sunday and resumed Monday morning just after four—well before sunrise, I thought, “Dead man, indeed.” I felt badly for my grieving neighbors—but good-god—I was becoming increasingly irritated by the clamor and close to homicidal in my mission to make it stop.
Fortunately, however, as my nephew Johnny rightly pointed out, Monday indeed became “the day the music died.”