I can't even begin to explain how amazing this is. Well, okay, I can begin.
Years of paying $65/hr for a pretty-good massage has finally karmically paid off. Today I found the Shiatsu Massage studio, which for a total of 140,000vnd (that's $8.70, y'all) bought me the best, and I mean hands down, blow the rest away, can't believe my back feels so good BEST hour massage I'm ever had. So the massage itself was 90,000Vvnd which is about $5.60 and I left the standard 50,00vnd tip which is about $3.10. That was the main selling point for me. But the massage itself was one of the only ones I've ever had that would have been worth the $65/hr. Holy freaking crap! But wait, there's more. Other reasons why I love this place so so much:
-it's 2 blocks from my apartment
-the place has it's own sauna, free of charge
-they have lockers that they lock your belongings in (v. important) free of charge
-there's no haggling for price, because they're listed on a big menu
-upon arriving AND departing, they give you a glass of iced Vietnamese tea, which is a green tea that kind of tastes like almonds and vanilla and yum
-you request your masseuse by her number (mine is number 9 all the way)
-there is NOTHING sketchy about it. No signs of "happy ending" massage to be seen.
-BEST OF ALL: my masseuse is a chiropractor! Or at least, she cracked my neck and back with all the finesse of the best chiro in NC.
So on the other hand, I had a pretty stressful past few days. Or was it just a day? Good lord. Basically, I was shown around town by my new friend, G, who lives across the hall from me and has been here since May. She knows a lot of great places. And she likes to shop a LOT so I was basically a puppy in tow, staring at all the craziness with wide open eyes. The Benh Thanh market is where we went, which has everything you could ever desire, if you desire lots of clothes, accessories, handmade goods, raw meat and shiny animal parts, dried foods, candies, lottery ticket sellers, etc. Wow. My head was spinning because it was my first real big Vietnamese market (instead of the small one down the street from my place). I tried out my bargaining skills by talking a seller down from 65,000vnd to 50,000vnd for a St.Ives Apricot Scrub (my favorite, and I left mine in NJ) but my glory was temporary as it turns out the bottle had been refilled with some greasy gunk that is definitely not the original product. Live and learn. Taxis are fun, very clean, and not really that expensive: if you keep it under 6 or 7 minutes or so, it stays at 12,000 which is less than a dollar. I mean hey, I've never really been rich before, and if I can afford a taxi now, I might as well grab that chance cause lord knows if I try that anywhere else it'll cost me a week's worth of food. The best taxis are the green and white ones, Vintaxi or something like that, and when you hail cab about 4 or 5 come screeching dangerously to a halt in front of you, never mind that there were just 25 people on 10 motorbikes right there. Sweet.
Food has been great. I finally went grocery shopping today and got a shitload of goods (including Tabasco and cans of Orangina!) for about $15. Amazing Savings, you have been schooled. But otherwise, I eat with my family/employers and just have what they have. It's been a lot of really salty fish, beef-based broths with stuff in it like greens and sweet potatoes and bean sprouts and basil. I find a new favorite thing every meal. My current favorite thing ever is chom chom, a fruit that's like 1/2 grape and 1/2 plum that comes in this spiky, magenta shell. Here it is:
I spent the weekend with the family at their river house, which was a LOT of kid time but a beautiful location (pictures coming to Flickr soon). Basically, I'm tired but full of new experiences, and I can't wait to go to work tomorrow morning because I'm going to negotiate my first motorcycle ride with a stranger (I rode on the back of a family friend's this morning). Maybe soon I'll be driving one... I made sure to buy health insurance as soon as I heard that motorcycles would be my mode of transportation in the morning. But you know, if I chicken out, I can always get a taxi. So my first official work-week begins tomorrow morning at 6:15... guess I better head to bed.