Bui Vien, the most touristic street of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
“Do you know how to eat it?” I hear from the table behind.
“No idea,” answers one the two girls that are sitting at the table beside mine.
“I was sure you didn’t,” keeps going the guy. Now that he has established a contact his voice has gained confidence.
“See, you have to put the shrimps and the salad inside. Then roll the bread around it.”
“Ohhhhh,” react the girls.
I switch my attention from the typhoon Haikui (which according to the last email I received is so strong that China Eastern Airlines rescheduled my flight to Shanghai) to the conversation.
“Where do you come from?” asks the man in an attempt to keep the conversation alive. I cannot resist. I turn my head over my shoulder and look at him. He looks like Danny De Vito, just a bit younger.
He’s excessively leaning towards the two girls. I start to fear he will lose his equilibrium and fall down. I’m not really worried for his safety. However I move my bag, where I keep my Canon 600D and my three lens, to the other side of my chair. Just in case.
“We are from Beijing,” answers one of the girls before coming back to her meal.
I glance at him again. Despite the ceiling fan is pointed right into his face he’s sweating more than the guy that’s preparing the barbecue under the sun. And he’s still leaning forward, staring at the girls with an hungry look.
Vietnamese spring roll.
The second attempt
“So you come here often?” he asks to the girls.
I shake my head and come back to my weather forecasts.
I then order some vegetarian spring rolls. I’m not really hungry, however when I travel I eat more than Shaquille O’Neal. With the difference that I don’t gain any weight. Unless I go to Italy. Everybody gains weight while traveling around Italy. This is the second law of thermodynamics, isn’t it?
“Did you like the fajitas?” Danny is back with yet another seducing line.
“What’s faita?” answers the same Chinese girl that talked before, unable to pronounce the Spanish “Jjjjjota.”
“Fajitas with shrimps? In Vietnam? Sure… You may have watched too many Mexican telenovelas my friend,” I reckon while I try to log in to the China Eastern intranet, knowing that it never worked and it will never be.
I look at the girl with more attention. She’s skinny, wears heavy glasses, a Snoopy’s t-shirt that is too big for her and a pair of shapeless Bermuda shorts that will look ugly even on Naomi Campbell legs. Naaaa, maybe I’m stretching my metaphor a bit too far this time but you get the point.
Majiang players in Shanghai.
Her friend is a couple of centimeters shorter, wears a yellow t-shirt featuring a Pink Power Ranger (WTF?) and identical shorts (I suspect they got a pay-one-get-two deal at the Silk Market of Guo Mao, Beijing).
To be fair, she didn’t bother to switch her attention from her Nokia yet. She’s probably playing majiang with the Red Power Ranger, Godzilla and the grand mother of E.T.
“Fajitas… I mean, the rolls I taught you how to eat!” replies Danny. Oh! Guys love the verb “to teach.”
“Yes, very good. Thank you,” answers Snoopy.
They don’t seem very keen to move their sight from their “shrimp fajitas.”
The kind of behavior guys may mistake for shyness.
The secret weapon
“Do you have a lighter?” he asks to the girls.
But Danny is not a man that gives up easily. He stands up, walks towards the girls’ table and while holding a copy of The Glass Castle on his left hand asks to them:
“Do you like to read English books?”
“Yes we like,” answers for the first time Pink Power Ranger.
“Cool, I want to give my book to you. You can read it and, if you like it, send me an email,” he concludes before to let the book and his business card on the table.
He then runs away without waiting for a reply, his face as red as the flag of Vietnam.
The girls stare at each for a couple of seconds, then Snoopy shakes her head and – in Mandarin – exclaims:
“What a loser.”
“Shi de,” agrees Pink Power Ranger before going back to her Nokia Lumia 800, where she probably keeps the plans to save the world.
I would also leave soon for Ho Chi Minh City Airport but this is another story.
My take on this story
I may be wrong, but my impression is that Danny belongs to the (in)famous club of those guys that come to Asia with the idea that Asian women are easy. Even if they have no clue on how to conquer a woman back in the West (and Danny obviously hasn’t).
These guys believe that all these young Asian women will forget they are fifty something years old men with an evident lack of self confidence. The girls will fall in love with their white skin and the promise of a better life.
Sure, you see a lot of young Asian women with old Western guys here in Asia, especially in poor countries as Vietnam.
The truth is that only desperate girls go for it. They do it for the money, not for the glamor of having a Western fat, bold and almost always drunk boyfriend.
Then again, if you have the charm of Marlon Brandon you can get all the women you want even if you are seventy years old ; )
Photo Credits: Photos by Sapore di Cina