Exhausted from our Củ Chi tunnel adventure (mostly tired out from the ride there and back), we're enjoying some peace and quiet in our hotel room. By the time night falls, the noise of a party outside is clearly audible in our room.
We're not keen on joining in the festivities, whatever they may be, but, after an hour or so of listening to the music blaring into our room as if we were in the midst of it anyway, we decide to venture out to see what the fuss is all about.
But first, we hem-and-haw about whether or not we should haul out our camera, lenses, and the sound recorder. I'm really not sure why we bother with this conversation; we unfailingly regret it when we don't bring our gear.
Outside our hotel, across the street, the city park is jam packed with stalls, lantern decorations, and lots and lots of people. There are live theater performances blasting over the crowds from giant loudspeakers, and the smell of foods ranging from pizza to doner kebabs to barbecue wafts our way.
It's Ho Chi Minh City's "Taste of the World" festival!
Under garlands of lanterns and lights, food stalls abound, featuring all manner of regional cuisines from the city's eclectic mix of restaurants. It all looks tempting, but when we order a plate of what turns out to be crappy Pad Thai from one of the vendors, we decide to skip out on the food for tonight.
Instead, we simply walk around the park, stopping to watch some of the many theater troupe performances. Some delight children with their colorful, elaborate costumes and slapstick antics. Others, like a show on the park's small lake, impress with the novelty of people performing from boats.
By the time we head back to the room, we are glad we went out, but even more exhausted from sensory overload. As the festivities die down, and we start to relax, something we thought was impossible happens. even louder music has begun. We exchange disbelieving looks for a moment, and then wonder aloud:
Is there seriously a brass band playing St. James Infirmary Blues right outside our window?