We were sitting in a Saigon local bar, which really means that we were sitting on tiny plastic stools on the sidewalk around a tiny plastic table, all of us no more than a foot off the ground. Cheap beer is the only drink option and these places are 98% frequented by men, but a great place to get off the typical tourist beat which is why our group tended to find ourselves there for either a pre or post dinner drink. These bars are usually only found lining neighbourhood streets away from the tourist areas.
There was a commotion behind me and a young Vietnamese mother of two (probably a 5 and 2 or 3 year old) was on her hands and knees bowing down to her husband (I assume) sobbing and crying out in Vietnamese. While looking at her it was clear to see she was distraught over something. Was it something she had done or had this man wronged her in some way? We could only assume. Either way it was quite the scene and in typical Asian fashion, everyone was watching but no one was getting involved. She continued her cries and screams and eventually this man grabbed her by the elbow and dragged her up. He said something to her, but again we can only assume. Their conversation continued back and forth until he slapped her.
Across the face.
I can’t believe I am writing this, but it didn’t look to be very hard and more of a matter of him saving face as she was crying in front of his drinking buddies. But does that even matter?
She threw herself into the middle of the road and lay there. Meanwhile, her two kids just stood there, either on the guy’s leg or calling out for the woman. She continued her sobs and tears in the middle of the road. Then while still crying out, she got up and walked off into the traffic. I do need to note that while that sounds dramatic and suicidal, that’s not the case in Vietnam. Whenever you want to cross the road, however busy, you just step off the sidewalk and start to walk to the other side. Doesn’t matter how many motorcycles are bearing down on you. You walk at a normal pace and they work their way around you while you arrive on the other side unscathed. I kid you. It’s weird the first couple times you do it but then you quickly get used to the process.
The woman walked off into the night, leaving her children crying and eventually being scooped up by the woman who ran the bar. Within 5 or so minutes, she returned, grabbed her kids, put them onto the moto and rode off in the opposite direction. The man ran behind her yelling. All while the crowd watched. Including myself.
While it was incredibly hard to just sit there and watch (or try not to watch) this unfold, I didn’t think it was my place to get involved. While I believe that no one ever deserves to be hit, I do not know the story behind these two people. Add onto the fact that this was all conducted in Vietnamese, a language which I can’t even begin to understand. At one point, some Westerner guy got up and started yelling at the man, but he was pulled back by a bunch of Vietnamese, including the woman who owned the bar.
While it was a hard thing to do, I believe that sitting back and staying out of the situation was the right thing to do.