We came to the cinnamon hotel somewhat by accident, having realised only shortly before leaving Japan that we had booked only five nights, not six – and might otherwise, , like Joseph and Mary, spend Christmas Day looking for somewhere to sleep.
The Fusions Suite Saigon, where we initially were staying, was a great refuge from the streets, a real haven, but it is also actually quite energising to go from all the green and white, hip international vibe of the last place and be somewhere more traditional for today; decor red, with mahogany furniture; cinnamon left on your pillow as a gift.
Cinnamon has actually become something of a theme on this trip. On the second day, when sightseeing near the main Saigon cathedral, for some reason I felt like going in the Catholic bookshop to see if there were any curious artefacts. Naturally, I made an immediate buzz line for the essential oils they happened to be selling – and though I am not usually the greatest of cinnamon lovers (I prefer clove, ginger and nutmeg as perfume notes), I sensed something rather lovely about this oil; a fragrant cassia aspect; mellow, emotional, not bitter and harsh like most cinnamon bark or leaf essential oils (which I never buy).
Unstoppering the oil again later on a bench outside the central city post office, I decided I would have to go back and get the remaining bottle: there is something spacious and cavernous about this oil; like the cool, ancient depths of a wooden cabinet. Rich, and full of hotness – but also, lingering within, shadows.
Later, looking up information about Saigon cinnamon, it turns out that my instincts about the characterfulness of this oil were right; this varietal of the spice (Cinnamon Loureiroi) is considered the finest form of cinnamon, and is usually by far the most expensive.
It is also delicious. I have just been (perhaps inadvisably) chewing an edge of the cinnamon bark that the lovely lady on reception gave us after we arrived, and my entire body is now suffused with a strange kind of heat (it feels good). This bark is also used in the preparation of pho, the classic Vietnamese noodle dish whose broth has a delicate flavour of Saigon cinnamon that laces the herbs and the citrus. It thus feels fitting.
We are going to the central market after I put this post up, and I might, like the lotus, try and source some cinnamon bark to take home with me. My perfume brain is craving an intense cinnamonic pot pourri now for the kitchen; oil on bark, for a winter warmer each time we come home to the house. It will also make an olfactory souvenir of this trip, which has been stimulating to say the least (yesterday, after the taxi incident of the night before, there was a heavy rainstorm, practically a monsoon, which was almost too perfect for clearing the air and my head, and we just lingered for the entire afternoon under umbrellas at a cafe of a sculpture park, calming down; watching young cats unfurling and stretching at the base of trees
Tonight, we will embrace the full madness of the city again, because we just have to: Â a thronging, place full of life that will undoubtedly celebrate Christmas as it does with everything else. With great passion.