Sunday, 15 July 2012

Murder in Saigon.

A few people have asked me why I ended Over the Hill and Far Away where I did. Without giving the game away, I can see that there might be some curiosity about what happened next.

Well, I wandered on around Cambodia and Vietnam - and here is a street scene from Vietnam to tempt you:

Saigon, of course, was much busier than this.

Here is a little tale about Saigon that I wrote when I came back, and was published last year in Domestic Cherry.


I stayed with friends in Saigon, and, on my last night, asked if I could treat them to dinner. We’ll show you how things are done here, Lydie agreed. And so they took me to a rooftop restaurant in the middle of the city.
We climbed the red-carpeted stairs, passed an elegant restaurant on the first floor, and emerged onto a flat roof with steam and rich smells from the kitchen to our right, and a space to our left that was packed with tables and people and food. Chatter, echoing from a corrugated iron roof, was deafening. Waiters in red jackets somehow managed to weave between the tables, yell instructions at each other, move chairs and people to fit in yet more diners, produce sparklers for a birthday party and stop to join in the singing of 'Happy Birthday to you.' We squeezed ourselves by the wall next to the doorway, and eventually attracted attention.
We were finally given a corner table, where it was almost quiet enough to hear each other above the general cacophony. It was a round table, with a calor gas bottle below and jets with a metal plate above: we were, we realised, going to cook our own food. No problem. The prawns are good, Lydie suggested.
Prawns, grey and unremarkable, still smelling of the sea, duly arrived. Onto the hotplate they went. And then came the 'oh sh*t' moment: their little antennae waved at us; their little legs scrambled as if trying to find a footing. They were still alive.
Now I don’t eat meat; and I pride myself on general kindness to living things.  But, given that these sizzling prawns already had a thin wooden skewer up their bums their life expectancy was obviously limited, and so grabbing them from the heat and racing through the chaotic streets of the city to throw them back in the river seemed a little futile. All we could do was push them to the centre of the hotplate and watch as they were cremated. Painfully.
And yes - they tasted wonderful: the flesh pink and sweet, with a brisk hint of chili from the oil.


  1. Jo, I love to travel and write it into my stories too. I haven't been to Cambodia/vietnam,but my children have. I'm currently in Fiji for 6 weeks and I"ll have a lot to write about! D,

  2. Arghhh!

    Reminded me of the time I ate sea urchin, and realised halfway through it was still alive too.
    The joy of experiencing different cultures!

    Thanks Jo- I had forgotten.

    A x

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  4. Thank you both - Ah Fiji - Denise, there's a lovely thought for a wet Monday.

    And Alex ... yuk!

  5. What a vivid description of eating in it! Mind you, I'm allergic to prawns and shellfish, and in the past they have made me very ill indeed, so I would have just watched the cremation!

  6. Oh thinking ... to watch the cremation and not even have the consolation of eating them - that would be terrible!

  7. I've never been able to eat lobster because of how it's cooked. I might have eaten the prawns since their fate was sealed. I wonder what I'd have done if it was dog or cat, though. ...