It started a few mornings ago. I woke up suddenly because (I thought) my nose was bleeding. It was dark so I couldn't tell, but there was definitely a nose gushing feeling so I stumbled into the bathroom with my hand cupped under my nostrils to make clean up easier. But when I turned on the light, all I had was a cold. Since that morning, my throat has been scratchy and raw and my head has felt full of concrete. Blowing my nose is just wishful thinking. So my yoga teacher Suzanne has given me the name of her acupuncturist, and I'm going to call him this morning. Apparently he's this sweet old doctor who makes house calls and uses new needles for every patient and only charges 50,000 (currently $3.09). So far the acu-sciences seem to be spot on here, but I've only tried acupressure during a foot massage and some crazy "hurts so good" points along my neck. Whether proper needles will expedite my sinuses clearing out, we shall soon see.
Yesterday we went down to Pham Ngu Lao, known as the backpacker's district. Really it's only a few streets, not a whole district by any stretch of the imagination, but one can easily spend hours there, stopping by the little cafes, the touring companies that offer one to three day sightseeing trips (the mekong delta, the cu chi tunnels, etc), the big travel agent places where you can arrange your flights home, and of course the souvenir shops. I guess it's because I've got my plane ticket home that my mind has been suddenly switched into "collect" mode: whereas before I could walk right past a little shop full of beautiful carvings and silk shoes and handwoven tapestries, now I have this personal shopper in my brain going, "ooh, Mom would like that. Gotta remember to get those Tintin shirts. Those are Lauren's size. Find silver earrings for Jules" and so on. There are so many beautiful things here and they're really not too pricey. I know that I should wait, though, until we're on the road, because if they're affordable in Saigon they must be cheaper closer to the source (wherever that is). I know my Dad wants a silk bathrobe with a dragon on the back. What do you guys want?
Anyway, we went down there in order to check out a rumour that Kenny had heard, and it turned out to be very true. There is a store (well, there are probably many) that has oodles of copies of popular software titles and sells them for pennies on the dollar (dong on the dollar?). For example, we got Finale 2005 and Apple Soundtrack and some games and the newest Office suite for about $15 total (Ken says this would have cost about a thousand at home). So, here's to saving over nine hundred bucks via blatant copyright infringement! Can we console our guilty consciences with how much these companies are making? I don't know, we'll debate it later. As for now, though, I'm having so much fun playing You Don't Know Jack, my favorite trivia game from when I was a kid. It's like, if Wait Wait was a computer game with a really juvenile host. And a inexplicable pirate theme. With extra points if you 'screw' your opponent by forcing them to answer when they're unsure. And not about current events. It's like that.
So we bought our illegal software and got some breakfast at Allez Boo cause Kenny hadn't been there yet. Really what we were doing was pretending we're tourists. Trying to get a feel for what it will be like next month. There seems to be a pretty amiable atmosphere between backpackers, and we were hoping to run into someone who would just start rattling off great places to go to in CTandL (I'm tired of typing out Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos... oops) and we could pick their brains and work on our itinerary. But no one made a move, so we ate breakfast and bought cookies from the place where they take in people from the streets and help them learn how to make cookies and then tourists by them and it's better than begging. And then we went backpack shopping. We both needed something bigger than a regular backpack but something smaller than the huge internal frame packs we already have. Kenny needed one with a built in hard case for his camera. We found what we were looking for (mine is small on purpose to encourage myself not to overpack) and headed home, secure in the knowledge that even if we're not sure where we're going or if we can afford to stay away as long as we want to, at least we have good backpacks. P.s., not sure if I've mentioned it, but since Northface and Spyder and Colombia, etc all have their factories in Vietnam, you can find reeeeally cheap packs and winter jackets and ski suits and fleeces here. Before we come home we're doing winter jacket shopping in a big way. It's hard to believe that before I came over I was excited that I found a good breathable rain jacket for only $98. Laughable. And so sad to know that I have to get used to American prices again. Alas.