No Reservations: Now With 100% Less Pig!!!
They\’ve broken out the Santa hats at the Majestic in Saigon—and at the Galle Face in Colombo, Sri Lanka, hotel staff in cheery red and white caps greet us in the heat whenever we come back from a day\’s shooting. They\’re a little more incongruous in Colombo, mixed in as they are with cammo fatigues and AK-47\’s. Things are made more odd there by an air of general goodwill and smiles — even at the checkpoints. Fingers are never far from triggers — and there\’s a gun crew manning what looks like a 50 caliber on the rooftop next door, but even in the armed camp that the hotel grounds have become after decades of civil war, holiday spirit is in abundance.
Became aware of a NO RESERVATIONS-related anomaly in Colombo. Watching the New Orleans show on Travel and Living Channel in my room, it slappped me upside the head: \”Where\’s the final scene with Donald Link of Cochon restaurant? What happened to the suckling pig scene in his backyard?\” Gone. Replaced by an artfully re-edited pork-free ending. It dawned on me: Malaysia. Java. Singapore. A lot of muslims for whom the sight of yet another identifiable cloven hooved beastie can be well….offensive. I don\’t know in what little office—or where—some poor guy has to nip and tuck our increasingly pig-centric show into an hour of de-porked entertainment, but they\’ve sure got their work cut out for them.
Producer Tom Vitale looks a little queasy today. The room temperature \”pizza\” squares, sitting under an anemic heat lamp in the airline lounge screamed \”Warning!\” to me—but apparently not to Tom. He had curiously little appetite at dinner, in spite of the fantastic array of Vietnamese goodies coming our way. As I\’ve told the crew before: I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I\’ve done a LOT of travelling and eating these last 8 years. If, as you approach a pre-wrapped egg salad sandwich at an English sandwich shop, or ponder the jambalaya option on the menu in Namibia, the chicken Caesar in Puebla—or consider the exotic delights of Sri Lankan airport pizza, you see me shaking my head and smiling fiendishly? Maybe you shouldn\’t eat it.
It\’s Christmas Wonderland in the lobby at the Majestic. Snow capped tree, a vast landscape of elves and reindeer, brightly colored packages, twinkling lights—the North pole. Then you step onto Dong Khoi Street and there\’s no question where you are. Back in Viet Nam.
Took a walk down to the square in front of the Continental and Givral\’s and the opera house, appropriately buying a pirated copy of The Quiet American on the way. ( I read it every time I come to Viet Nam). Nothing has changed and everything has changed since last time I was here. More cars, fewer bikes. Everybody wears helmets now. There are Vuitton and Gucci boutiques where the bric-a-brac shops selling fake wartime Zippos used to be—but it smells the same, and once sitting on a low plastic stool with a glass of strong iced coffee, eating banh xeo (sizzling crepes filled with pork and baby shrimp and sprouts, I am reassured that all is right with the world.
Philippe (from Les Halles) arrived from Vientiane last night—and has the same blissed out grin on his face I have. Happy to be alive and in Saigon. Looking forward to our first bowl of pho with a ferocity bordering on the desperate.
Ended the day with the crew at the rooftop bar. Gin and tonics while watching the ferries fill with scooters then disgorge, a current of headlights fanning out on both sides of the Saigon River….. .