Saigon Diary: How a 50% Led to My Mental Descent









Jen Graham for ZUPAdream

The early morning sun poking through the partially open curtains, and a few beeping horns from the road 10 floors below wake me up. My cat is sat impatiently glaring at me and when she sees my eyes are open, she nibbles the tip of my nose to tell me to get my lazy ass out of bed and feed her, goddamnit!

Now that we have neighbours living across from us, we can see one another through our opposite windows into our kitchens, so I pull on a t-shirt whilst trying not to slip on the mountain of post-holiday clothes piled up on the bedroom floor. I’ll tidy later.

I grab a bag of tuna flavoured Whiskas, rip it open and plop half of it into my cat’s bowl. She scoffs it while I make myself and my boyfriend our morning coffees and ponder on the day ahead. Usually I would be working at a local primary school teaching English this morning and later this afternoon at a kindergarten, but the kids are on their summer break, which means today is a day of absolute freedom. I can do whatever the hell I want, so long as it involves being in Saigon of course.

I sit down with my laptop to catch up with the news from back home when I suddenly hear a low heavy ‘thump thump thump…’ coming from outside.

I take myself and my coffee to the large window in the spare bedroom to find out where the noise is coming from. I see the newly opened jewellers across the road has set up a red carpet from door to kerb, a sound system, and a small stage outside their establishment. The thumping is the bassline to some 90’s techno dance song. I roll my eyes, remembering what we had to put up with a month ago when the jewellers had it’s opening ceremony over the course of 3 days.

I notice the long red posters hanging from the rooftop to the ground floor. The jewellers is having a 50% discount it seems but with everything else written in Vietnamese I can’t tell how long it will last for. Although, with this much effort it isn’t going to be for just a day.


There is no escape. I am trapped within a prison of sound. I can hear it in every room in the apartment. To top it off, they must have only 5 songs on repeat throughout the whole day. After 4pm last night there was an evening performance with a dance troupe which brought a few newer tunes to the ears. I am adamant that I will not take this lying down.


The music is awful, it’s loud, and there are dozens of people on motorbikes stopping nonchalantly in the middle of the road, hypnotised by swaying hips and luscious black hair whipping back and forth. Why is this necessary? What kind of market research has been conducted in order to come to the conclusion that it is appropriate to promote a promotion with the help of crappy ugly songs and sparkly dancers shaking their tiny rear ends?


I’ve had some vodka. It’s Friday night and I can’t be a miserable cow all week. I will be utterly honest and say that the belly dancing and breakdancing on stage tonight is just marvelous.


Slightly hungover and extremely pissed off. I can’t spend time in the apartment today. I have to go out, see people, buy things. Maybe I should buy some jewellery? No, Jen, just no!


Are you f**king kidding me? It is 9:30am and I am trying to get some work done writing my blog, but it’s impossible. I mean, what the actual f**k. For the last 30 minutes all I can hear is a BANG BANG BANG on some f**king drum.

I pace around the apartment, pick up books and throw them into the spare room, drop dirty bowls and coffee cups into the kitchen sink, angrily hang up the post-holiday pile of clothes. I scream with frustration. Why!!

I can’t take this torture anymore. I kneel down on the bedroom floor and start to cry. My head in my hands. Real tears of utter despair. How can they be so inconsiderate to me, so selfish in their pursuit for money. They couldn’t care less about anyone else!

My cat curls up around my knees. Her eyes filled with a mixture of concern and hunger. Even her adorableness can’t lift me out of this agony.


Along with yesterday’s drum beat torture, last night turned out to be karaoke night. I would rather slice off my ears than have to listen to that screeching and wailing again. I found myself on my balcony, gripping the railing and yelling ‘Shut. The. F**k. Up!’ at the top of my lungs.

Last night must have been some kind of ‘special event’ because today the music is quieter but the stage is still there, so I’m not holding my breath, although that’s starting to sound like a good idea.

I hear a child screaming and women bellowing in the hallway. Sounds like the new neighbours are using it as an extension of their apartment again. Is it that hard to have an indoor voice? Can I not just be allowed to savour this lull from the madness?


It’s been three days since there was any kind of spectacle or interaction with the public at the jewellers. On Monday and Tuesday there were a few songs on rotation and a recorded message played throughout the afternoon and evening but from today it is over. No more loudspeakers or red carpet or stage. Just like that. Finished.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel like my warrior opponent has been defeated and there is no one left to fight.

I think I’ll go and have a nap.

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