Leave Cho Lon alone!

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Saigon had unleashed a string of powerful bummers by Monday evening.

The old guy across my alleyway began exposing himself to teenage girls and I had spent all my money on a disastrous Honda Win because it looked like something I doodled when Knight Rider was my favorite television show.

On a more general note, free healthcare, siestas and Europe look like they are about to implode in a cloud of Gaelic, Italian and Spanish promissory notes and the Los Angeles Times actually began running a series on overpopulation"”which probably means that it is far too late to do anything about it.

To deal with all of this, I headed to Cho Lon, a place that is full of old magic and bright weirdness.

It is a place where you can flirt with your butcher, get a glass of soymilk at midnight or wander into a strange apartment building and walk around.

It has its own colors, its own smells and a dire excess of smiles, which people try to unload at the slightest provocation.

As Saigon continues to pursue project Singapore (i.e. shopping malls, skyscrapers and global chain restaurants), Cho Lon offers perhaps the true tourist destination"”a place where visitors can go and see something unique and different.

The city has announced plans to preserve the 300-year-old Chinese settlement and its fortress-like namesake market, which seemed like a great idea.

The sad thing about the plan (which involves closing off traffic, building green space and creating a massive underground parking lot to attract pedestrians) is that it would be a good idea in almost any place that is not magically stuck in time.

The city has precious little public space and the few parks that do exist have been crammed full of carnival rides and other cheap money-making gimmicks.

Bringing those things into the most beautiful and unspoiled part of Saigon is an almost sure-fire way to ruin it.

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