Something magical always happens in the alleys
In my stays in Saigon in the early 2010s, I sometimes ate at a street noodle cart in the downtown area. The seller always served me an extra portion at no additional charge. If the food was not recently made, she would ask me to wait, and prepare a fresh serving. When it rained, she found a dry spot for me to sit on. Often her elderly mother and young daughter would join me and chat with me in a mix of gestures and singular Vietnamese and English words.
The noodle seller in 2013
After a gap of a couple of years, I again started spending more time in Vietnam. I tried to find the noodle cart, but I could not. Locals told me that the authorities had chased away the street vendors operating along the main street. Many took up other occupations or went back to their home provinces. I give up on meeting my favourite noodle seller.
Recently, on one of my random walks, I stepped in a random alley. I saw a hair cut shop and stepped in (I like getting my hair cut at random locations as hair cutters always have good intelligence on a neighbourhood). As I stepped out after the hair cut, I felt a tap on my arm. I turned around. It was my favorite noodle seller!! She pointed to a shop in the alley and explained that she has a fixed business spot now. She also looked more radiant, perhaps a sign of having done well in business.
The noodle seller in 2017
In Saigon, one should always walk into a random alley. Something magical often happens.