Straits Canopy Goes to Vietnam
I enter the veranda and bar when an elderly man catches my eyes. He is comfortably seated in a lounge chair and seems focused on reading his book and sipping cold white wine. I envy him. He seems to be so present and deliberate and an aura of total tranquillity surrounds him. He looks up and gives me an almost unnoticeable twitch with his right eye, as if to say: “Welcome! Welcome to share this piece of paradise with me. Welcome to sit with me and dream about days past and feel the history.”
It is suddenly 1929 and I am sitting across from the old man. He is dressed in a white linen suit and picks up an ivory carved pipe from his pocket. He graciously lights it and starts puffing with contentment. The room is slowly filled with the aromatic smell and expectation. I feel intrigued and wonder what it would be like to smoke a pipe. Then he starts to speak: “I was born in Semur-en-Brionnais in France, but Vietnam has been my home for the past forty years and I shall die here. My father was a marine infantryman in Tonkin…I was 10 years old when he sent for Mama and me…I still clearly remember the day I first set foot in what was to become my new home…”
The loud laughter and voices of arriving hotel guests shake me awake. There. I did it again. There is something about Vietnam and this place that transfers me into a state of escapism and daydreaming up stories of the people I carefully choose to observe. I realise that the old man is actually American and he has come here to relax and indulge in the beauty and luxury of this colonial-style seaside hotel. Just like me. I would have loved to hear the rest of his story though…
The hotel was only built eight years ago, but boasts an architecture and atmosphere which immediately trick your mind to believe that it would at least be a hundred years old. The mosaic tiles on the floor, the sober colours of the walls, the dark wood, the art deco inspired furniture and, as it should be on a tropical island, ceiling fans that gently sweep the sea breeze around and around. It’s all an exquisite treat to my palate and flair for Indochine.
As I sit down on the veranda to drink my hazelnut infused coffee, I start to think about what one of my favourite Zen monks once said: “Smile, breathe and go slowly” (Thich Nhat Hanh). There really is no option but to do so when here. This is a luscious oasis on a white, sandy beach far away from the hustle and bustle of city life in my vibrant Singapore. This is mental harmony and serenity.
The sun is just about to set and the whole world slowly turns pink. People seem to wind down for the evening. They order cocktails and snacks on the beach, while their children are still happy to build sandcastles or plunge into the clear waters. I decide to join them and stroll towards the beach. The American man is long gone, but when I walk by his table I notice that he has forgotten something there. An old smoking-pipe.
We hope you enjoyed our little step back in time in Vietnam. The hotel we stayed at was Le Veranda on beautiful Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam.