Its been over 12 years since I’d last been to Vietnam. In the summer of 1999, right before high school, I made the trip with my family to visit the homeland of my parents and ancestors. The trip was a memorable one that left deep imprints in my mind.
From the first moment I stepped off the airplane in Ho Chi Minh City, a distinct whiff of air infiltrated my nostrils, a mixture of durian and gasoline that I fondly grew to love for it was the smell of Saigon. I wondered if it would still smell the same this time around after so many years?
My flight would take me from Orlando to Dallas-Fort Worth and then onto Tokyo’s Narita Airport and finally stopping at Tan Son Nhut International Airport (SGN). Originally built by the French almost 100 years ago, Tan Son Nhut is the famous airport used as a airbase for the air force and American military during the Vietnam War. Its code SGN still recalls the city’s old name of Saigon before changing to Ho Chi Minh City after 1975 when the South fell and the country was united again.
In Dallas, I tried some of Cousin’s Bar B Q at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. I ordered the beef brisket with mac n cheese and some casserole dish. I’ve had better, I thought the beef was a bit too “soggy”
After almost 30 hours of flight, lay overs, and waiting in terminals, I finally arrive at Tan Son Nhut International Airport. A frowning customs officer checking my passport, valets pushing carts with cardboard boxes filled with gifts from returning travellers, throngs of people outside the airport waiting for loved ones just beyond the metal gates. Familiar faces and a short moped ride. I have my first meal in Vietnam: bun bo hue, surrounded by family members on all sides.
Last Meal in America
In Tokyo’s Narita Airport, there was this restaurant that displayed its food in the display case. Similar to the displays in Hong Kong that I’ve seen, the food was actually plastic models…pretty cool !