Always wander into the alley in SaigonIn my stays in Saigon in the early 2010s, I sometimes ate at a street noodle cart near the backpacker area of Pham Ngủ Lau. The seller was kind to me, always served me an extra portion at no additional charge. When it rained, she found a dry spot for me to sit on. Often her elderly mother and young daughter would join me and chat with me in a mix of gestures and singular Vietnamese and English words.
After a hiatus of a year and half, I again started spending more time in Vietnam but I stayed away from the Pham Ngủ Lau street. Once in a while when I went there, I tried to find the noodle cart, but I could not. Locals told me that the authorities had chased away the street vendors operating along the main street. Many took up other occupations or went back to their home provinces. I give up on meeting my favourite noodle seller.
Recently, I was in Pham Ngủ Lau for an errand. I decided to explore the inner alleys to see how they have changed since I spent time here. As I stepped inside the alley, I felt a tap on my arm. It was my favorite noodle seller. She pointed to a shop in the alley and explained that she has a fixed business spot now. She had done well.
In Saigon, one should always walk into a random alley. Something magical often happens.