January 2010
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4th Birthday in Saigon

Beautiful view at Binh Quoi

….however, the first 3 birthdays were before 1975….so I have no memories of them.

At this time last year, my wife surprised me with a trip to Las Vegas…we stayed at the Bellagio…had a lot of fun; we even spoke about perhaps trying to have a baby in the following year.  What a difference a year makes. It all seems like a lifetime ago.

I’ve always been very uncomfortable about celebrating my birthdays….never liked being the center of attention.  Somehow my relatives in Saigon found out about it and insisted on making a big hubbub about it.  Normally I would react badly to all the fuss…but I now realize that it is better to be gracious about things and just play along instead of being a party pooper and hurting people’s feelings.

I remember one year my friend Rob took me to Hooter’s for lunch for my birthday.  He secretly told the buxom staff that it was my birthday…and they preceded to drag to the front of the restaurant and about 10 girls knelt down and serenaded me.  I was not amused.  I had the most pissed off look you could imagine.  I probably looked like the biggest ass in the world.  Sorry Rob!  Anyways….lesson learned.

Another view at Binh Quoi

My Aunt (Di Tu) and her son’s family took me out to Binh Quoi….a  restaurant/theme park aiming to recreate the look and feel of simple village life on the Mekong Delta.  Waiters and waitresses wore the traditional brown pajamas still worn by many country folk and could be seen traversing the park delivering food/drinks on antique bicycles.  There was also a small museum built to honor the song writer Trinh Cong Son, who was famous for the antiwar messages in his lyrics.  Other than walk the grounds…there wasn’t much to do but admire the beautiful scenery…and wait for the dinner buffet to open to eat.  You had to buy tickets to eat at the buffet.  Each ticket cost (150,000 Dong or about $8 US Dollars).   The food was really good…but I had enough resolve not to stuff myself.  I think everyone else ate 2-3 times the amount that I did…even my cousin’s 3 year old daughter ate more than me.

Di Tu posing with Trinh Cong Son

Proving that great minds (or family members) think alike….my uncle (Cau Lam) and his family took me out the next day to Van Thanh Park, which is owned by the same company (Saigon Tourist) that owns Binh Quoi. Van Thanh is much more touristy and modern in look than Binh Quoi.  There are tennis courts and a swimming pool on the grounds.  We were seated under a small pavilion/gazebo overlooking water.  We had fun feeding fresh bread to the swarms of Koi in the pond.  Supposedly one can see the city of Vung Tau from the park…but it was never pointed out to me.  Van Thanh Park had a lot more to do and see…but it was not as picturesque as Binh Quoi…and the food was nowhere as good.  My Aunt said that Van Thanh Park is a lot more expensive to eat at though…but I didn’t ask my uncle how much everything cost.

Koi feeding frenzy

I also received a really gaudy cake covered by yellow flowers.  I was going to take a picture of it…but everyone cut into the cake before I got a chance to.  The cake tasted a whole lot better than it looked.  I was also given a bunch of small gifts and flowers.  FLOWERS!!  I’ve never ever received flowers in my life.  Weird but a nice thought.

Overall it was very nice of everyone to go out of there way to celebrate my birthday…and in spite of myself…I did have a nice time.  Wonder where I will be celebrating my birthday next year.  🙂

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