Destination Saigon: Adventures in Vietnam
Walter Mason, Allen & Unwin
Destination Saigon may encourage you to next holiday in the exciting, mystical Vietnam with its friendly people. Or it may make you to decide to never put one toe into this unhygienic country filled with people with crude senses of humour. It all depends on which chapter you are reading at the time.
Mason has been to Vietnam nine times and has a Vietnamese partner. He loves Vietnam and also says it drives him crazy. He writes about being greeted regularly as “fatty”, the delicious food, the fruit that he can’t abide, the difficulties in finding a toilet or chair his size, the different temples he visits, the wedding and engagement celebrations he attends/survives and the religious celebrations that fascinate him.
Mason was raised a Protestant but is intrigued by the different faiths and religious practices in Vietnam. He describes how life is spent in Buddhist monasteries, visits to fortune tellers, a Hindu temple and the home of a leader of the Cao Dai religion.
He listens to ghost stories and visits eerie places.
Mason’s experiences are a useful guide to cultural practices in Vietnam and how to avoid unsavoury experiences, uninteresting tourist sites and being cheated — although Mason allows himself to be cheated fairly regularly because he sees so much poverty.
Destination Saigon is a beautifully written, humorous, slightly shocking, entertaining book. Don’t read it though, if you don’t want to hear about his experiences with toilets.