After five months of varying degrees of lockdown, finally, last Thursday 28th October we had our freedom.
Last Thursday was the first day restaurants opened for dine-in in Ho Chi Minh City. After so long a wait, the news came suddenly, almost dreamlike in its apparition.
I hadn’t been out for a couple of days and happened to finish work early, so sometime mid-afternoon I ventured out for a walk, partly to celebrate the full re-opening of restaurants, but also because I just needed some sun.
I went out without a plan, no destination, just a random stroll that would last as long as I felt like it.
My partner was working that evening and we had agreed to each take care of our dinner arrangements, so there was a possibility of eating out. I toyed with the idea as I walked down the main road. I could also stop by a cafe for a read, I thought. Out of an abundance of optimism, I had brought my Kindle with me.
I hadn’t spent a few hours, not to mention a whole afternoon, reading in a while. That might be a good idea, a way for me to re-connect with a part of myself I’d forgotten, to re-Kindle my reading habit. (Pun totally intended)
Mori Coffee popped into my mind as a potential cafe stop-off. I stopped in front and peered inside: busy. All the tables I could see were occupied. So I walked on.
I mulled over cafe options in my head. A couple presented themselves. So I trudged on, headed to another main road where all those options resided.
My walk took me past Pasta Fresca. I’d been once over five months ago and had thought the seating area in the garden lovely. It’s a small outdoor Italian restaurant nestled in a quiet alley. The first (and last) time I was there with a friend, she ordered the most exquisite pasta. There, dinner sorted. I made a plan to spend the afternoon at a cafe while waiting for the restaurant to open at 5:30pm.
On I walked. Cafe after cafe I passed. One of the options I intended to visit was still not open for sit-in. Another cafe I stumbled across was well and truly shut. Then, as I walked past a shuttered Japanese restaurant, I noticed a tiny alley leading into a small cafe. There was a kiosk where you could order, and a row of outdoor seating under a wall of bamboo trees.
It seemed as good a place as any, plus they had fancy yuzu drinks on their menu, so I stopped off for a couple of hours to kill time.
I sat there, snapping photos for my Instagram and blog, messaging friends, booking the pasta restaurant, and doing who knows what on my phone. As expected, I didn’t touch my Kindle. (As I said, an abundance of optimism)
Anyways, the time rolled around for me to head to the restaurant, so I set off again after visiting the tiny ladies room which I could barely squeeze inside with my small handbag.
Fast forward half an hour, and here I was:
As I sat there, perusing the menu, ordering my pasta and gin and tonic, and taking in the sight and sound of an empty restaurant on a Thursday evening, I was overcome with this feeling.
A feeling of normalcy, of life.
You know that feeling where you don’t know what you’ve been missing until you get it back? Yeah, that feeling.
I used to spend so many of my evenings outside eating and drinking by myself. And I didn’t even realise this aspect of me was missing during the five months of lockdown.
But sitting there, I realised it had been missing. And now it wasn’t.
This was what I used to do, what I liked to do. This was life. This was me.
And just like that, life resumed.
Goodbye lockdown, hello restaurants and cafes of Ho Chi Minh City. I’m coming to get you.