Saturday, 2 January 2016


29th Dec 2015

Christmas survived in a remarkably enjoyable low-key fashion....despite many Rudolph the Poxy Red Nosed Reindeers towing sleighs over polystyrene snow and "we wiss you a Merry Keesmah" blaring out from the larger shops.
Shop girls wearing Santa Claus hats.......

.....and waitresses and others donning reindeer antlers. Herds of them in fact. It was all the rage this year. 
A pleasant, if somewhat drunken, Christmas eve dinner was spent in a German restaurant (I am the guest of a German ex-colleague) where Teutonic beef and much schnapps  was consumed. My contribution was mince pies and brandy butter brought over for the occasion.
Christmas day was spent recovering from a monumental Teutonic hangover.

....more antlers. Staff at a local restaurant.

......the locals 'sort of' entered into the spirit of the occasion, especially when it came to selling things to 'nguoi nuoc ngoai' (foreigners)........

......even expensive 4x4 cars on display in a department store had a Father Christmas offering a test drive.

On Boxing Day I decided to go to the races at Phu Tho racecourse, 3 miles west of the city centre where Saturday and Sunday are/were racedays. I remember going there a couple of times in 2010 and found it quite amusing. Not exactly the equivalent of Kempton Park and the King George V1 'Chase, but it was the only alternative.  On arrival, wearing my best Panama hat for the occasion, I found it was closed. Not only closed, but derelict! I learnt it had been shut down in 2011 and the centre of the course has been turned into an athletics training ground, of a very scruffy nature. I had, stupidly, not checked it out on the internet previously. Typical.......

Right: Derelict stands and the old number board at the now defunct racecourse. There is now no horse-racing in Vietnam, although I gather there are plans to open a new course somewhere north of the city. Maybe.

It was reported that all the ex-racehorses have now been eaten; probably by their starving jockeys.

Wandering home I passed the railway station which has been considerably upgraded....except for this train on nearby tracks. Not sure if it works but is possibly of interest to train spotters.

On Boxing Day evening a small group of us 'pushed the boat out' and had a sumptuous, and rather expensive, dinner at a French restaurant called 'Les Trois Gourmands' in An Phu district (right). It is owned and run by old friends, Gils Roux and his Vietnamese wife Phoung. It was previously called 'Le Toit Gourmand' in Tan Binh district where I lodged for a couple of years. It is an iconic eatery in Saigon and well worth a visit, and the price, for the occasional night of epicurean debauchery. Spectacular menu and wines and a brilliant chef (whom I taught to play backgammon a few years ago and then he regularly beat me at it!).

So now looking forward to New Year's Eve, Vietnam style. The music in the shops and restaurants now changes and blasts out that hideous old Abba number 'Happy New YEER, Happy New YEER....etc.' I am tempted to arm myself with  sub-machine gun and hand-grenades to express my appreciation.

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