I had bragged to friends and acquaintances that I would be spending most of my sabbatical at a rich uncle’s mansion in Long Khanh attended by household servants. I wasn’t exaggerating about the mansion part; any dwelling with a marble fountain in the living room qualifies as a mansion. The decor is not what I would have chosen but it’s lavish in its own, uniquely VN, style. The sheer scope and grandeur of it is stunning. It’s 4 stories high and has 9 massive bedrooms, 11 bathrooms (that we know of), a karaoke room, a rooftop deck, an elevator and a tikki hut with fish pond. When I say massive, I mean MASSIVE. I thought our bedroom at home was spacious but the rooms in my uncle’s mansion absolutely dwarf any room in our 4,200 square foot house in Las Vegas. There’s an atrium running through the center of the house that allows you to look down into the marble fountain from every level.
As for household servants, technically they’re my uncle’s daughters and daughters-in-law, which in VN are the equivalent of servants. I’m also not exaggerating when I say that some of the finest meals I’ve eaten in VN, or ever, have been at my uncle’s home. My cousins are phenomenal cooks; I would put them on par with chefs at some of the finest restaurants I’ve patronized in the U.S. (but only if you love VN cuisine as much as I do).
We had spent a few nights in Long Khanh before embarking on our trip to Da Nang, with the intention of making it our home base for the rest of our stay in VN. Long Khanh is a couple of hours northwest of Saigon and a much more reasonable place to live. There are still mosquitoes and litter everywhere, but the roads and traffic conditions are much better. My very first day in Long Khanh, a manicurist appeared at my uncle’s home and gave me the most meticulous (and at less than a dollar, the absolute cheapest) pedicure I’ve ever had. As she worked on my toes, I snacked on luscious ripe papaya that had been picked from my uncle’s garden that morning and thought to myself, “A girl could get used to this.” After our Da Nang-Quang Ngai-Nha Trang-Phan Thiet “adventures,” we didn’t have the stamina to make it back to Saigon and decided to take the shorter trip back to Long Khanh to rest before our next expedition. The first day upon my return, the same manicurist arrived to give everyone mani-pedis. I had been honored the first time because I thought the manicurist had been summoned especially for me. This time, I realized that she had a standing appointment with the household for weekly in-home manicures, pedicures, and facials. My uncle and his family are a bunch of ballers.