(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.”
Lovely post, Kathy. Those fruits look interesting – some of them seem similar to lychees. Are they?
The funeral music is totally depressing, gosh! Love your witty nephew’s comment.
Oh, the fruit looks yummy, Kathy.
I agree, the funeral music is annoying.
I got a chuckle from your nephew’s comment.
My nephew is a hoot–such a quick wit for a kid of 17 it’s scary!
About the music–imagine having to listen to that for days on end–very loudly–so loud you couldn’t comfortably even watch tv over the clamor–this for at least 12 hours a day. It nearly made me mad!
Happy New Year, Marianne!
Loved the post…I had forgotten the sounds of the music there…thanks for the reminder.
Glad the music brought back good memories! Vietanm is a strange and wonderful place–wonderfully strange–at least!
I’ve never seen any of those fruits, Kathy…interesting!
I have to admit that as much as I love music, I’ve never warmed up to Asian music…something about the high-pitched voices…
I understand, Wendy. I hoped I’d learn to like the music, but I never did–too discordant for me. But the fruit was great. Happy New Year!
I showed Willie this post. He recognized all the fruits you talk about. Said that rambutan looks and tastes like litchi. Just looked it up on Wikipedia – they’re from the same family of plants.
Willie asks if you ever tried durian? From his description (re: the bad smell), I don’t think I’d be able to get it close to my face. Willie says it’s very nice – like a mixture of tropical fruits.
I have never been able to get past the smell of durian. Good for Willie! I just don’t understand how something that smells so bad could taste good–that seems so counter-intuitive. But the Vietnamese really seem to love the stuff.
I’ve been lying to the offspring – telling them the rambutan was a lichi- who knew- mouthwateimg post- until the dead man part. Of course you and your nephew might have been reduced to drooling after days of listening to that music….
Thanks for reading! I have to admit though, that the drooling set in in less than a day of that “music.” Not a pleasant sound, is it?
I appreciate your taking the time to comment!