Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ho Chin Mihn City

HO CHIN MIHN CITY (Saigon) I didn't have as many days to spend in HCMC as I did in Hanoi. My schedule was also less intensive, so I had more time to rest, do a little shopping, and hang out with my kind hostess, Sandrine and her family who had just arrived from an extended holiday in their home country of Switzerland. They have a lovely small mansion in HCMC and her husband and teenage sons were also very patient and generous in sharing her time with me during my stay at their home. They also treated me like a member of the family and even invited me for an evening at some friends' house, where I tried to test my French listening skills and see how much I could understand -- not much. I was also invited by Donald and Lauren with an invitation extended to Sandrine, who accompanied me to their fantastic Lebanese restaurant named Byblos. If you visit HCMC, you must go there. The food is delicious and authentic, the atmosphere very inviting (especially upstairs) and they feature Belly Dancers. I patronize anyone who supports dancers and our beloved art form. Plus Donald and Lauren are extremely friendly and warm. We enjoyed the performance of two of Ngan's (a local BD teacher) students. They were lovely young dancers and very energetic. They used traditional music and were very enthusiastic in their renditions. I really enjoyed the evening. Then, we had a bit of audience participation and we all got up to dance. Sandrine is the Oriental Dance instructor at DanCenter where I conducted my workshops, and she is now also teaching with Ngan at another location. Belly Dance is very new in Saigon, but there is a huge interest and some students are pursuing this art very seriously.

Whereas in Hanoi the
majority of the participants in class and workshops were Vietnamese, the majority of participants in HCMC were from other parts of the world, either living there or passing through. It was very interesting for me to teach students from Eastern Europe, which was a new experience. It always amazes me how dancers from all over the world can get together and share this beautiful dance as a common bond. One of the highlights of my cultural experiences in HCMC was the night that Sandrine and I went to see a show of water puppets. I have a fascination for puppets and seriously pursue the art of Shadow Puppetry (after visiting Bali several times), but I had never heard of Water Puppets. This art is also popular in Hanoi, but I didn't have time to go see a show there, so I was as delighted as a child when I got a chance to see it after all. I even took pictures with the lifesize puppets outside. I totally enjoyed the show and was amazed at how precisely the puppeteers can manipulate the puppets on the surface of the water and standing in water out of sight of the audience. Finally the day arrived that I had to leave Saigon and say good bye to Vietnam. My sweet memories and gratitude to all will always remain. I was now on my way back to Malaysia, where I would again stay at Esther's house (she deserves so many thanks from me), and teach workshops at her son's studio named Outcast located in the greater Kuala Lumpur area. My next blog will be about those incredibly intensive two days. My flight back to Malaysia was calm, but my heart was stormy due to the news of my puppy back home being very ill.

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