I don’t often roam the streets looking for tripadvisor/lonely planet restautants. Partly because its a frustrating process that forces you to stop every few meters to pull out your map/ book/ phone. So u
usually end up blocking some form of traffic and gaining a mental jam in the process. It’s hard to go with the flow when you have already pre-ordered your $2 breakfast thanks to blah blah’s blog.
But today I thought I really wanted to find that western breakfast spot. I had been eating so many bread and egg combos and really couldn’t face another steet noodle soup before 9am, so i set my mind and GPS to finding that elusive combo – a shady spot with fresh fruit and muesli. And God help the man, woman, bicycle or street vendor who stood in my way.
So there I am. On my bicycle in a new city with a vague idea of where this place is. It’s already pushing 30 degrees and I’m overloaded with a cross section of hat, camera and bag straps that strangle me every time I attempt to rearrange them to check the map. I don’t have much time before I reach “hangry”– that dark hollow space where hunger and anger meet to talk about your low sugar levels.
Let’s not pretend you don’t know where this is going. Nowhere. I rode that Ben Nghe street ragged looking for the Stop Go café before I recognised that hangry was just a few streets away and I needed food, any food. So I stopped at a leafy place and sat down. The problem with hangry is that comes with a large side order of irrational and rude. You know you need to eat but you are indignant about the menu in front of you, which you push away wuth a great sigh. Bread. Fried egg. WTF? The brat stage has started. Get out. Get out now. Recognising this I had a coffee and left, taking my anger to the bike and streets to save the friendly staff from trying to please a sulky cat. But now I’ve added coffee to the mix. Bad move. Really bad move.
Even though Hangry is an old friend and I can recognise the signs and stages, it’s hard to stop the process from playing out when I’m in it. But “playing out” usually involves some sort of rude behaviour, shouting, maybe kicking, and often some tears. So exactly like a tantrum. But on a 36 year old, it’s not quite as cute.
But today I got lucky. I had a real breakdown. One of the pedals on my bicycle came off so which meant I became a mental case pushing a practical problem. A practical problem that slows you down and forces you into a repetitive motion is like pushing the reset button. Plus it allows you to see that beautiful coral and floral trees for the shade they provide.
And you end up seeing what you would have missed – a local restaurant filled with pots of veggie options that you can stomach before 10. So you sit down and release yourself from your set ideas and give yourself over to the experience. You point at the morning glory (water spinach), calamari rings and question the tofu. You pull out your tried and tested phrase “kong ang tik” (no meat at all) agree to the ca (fish) and ask bow new? (how much). Pens and paper come out and a portion size is chosen. You take a seat under the fan and pour yourself a glass of cha da (green tea with ice). Life has become simple again. You know it’s just another lesson to remind you to drop your western expectations and go with the flow. That means accepting whatever the tofu on your plate is stuffed with. Even if it does look a lot like meatloaf. But hey, if you want to complicate matters, learn the f***ing language.
Spoiler alert: I was calm and collected when I eventually pedaled my bike back to my hotel to replace it. Had I not dealt with my anger, I would have been that tourist reinforcing that stereotype.
pic: imperial palace, HUE