Gia's Shop, Viet Nam – Travel Short
Some cities, we spend days and days searchin’ for ANY type of office-supply shop. Bus, train, taxi, Uber, ferry, hoofin’ it on foot. When we finally find the goods, it feels like the end of a crazy quest.
Other cities? You walk out the front door and BOOM – the magic happens.
Day one in Ho Chi Minh City. Headed out into the heat, no agenda in mind. Walked about two blocks before we spied it – an office-supply shop. And another one. And ANOTHER one!! We had stumbled across a whole block dedicated to office supplies – SCORE!
The first one we spied looked busy – locals goin’ in and out, buying the goods. We squeezed in. A woman came up – we asked if she spoke English. Leaning over the glass countertop, she said something in Vietnamese to the floor. Surprise! A young girl popped up, wearing a school uniform and blinkin’ – she’d been taking a nap.
The girl – Gia – was unerringly polite but a bit reserved (maybe because we’d just woken her up from her nap…sorry!) but she grew more and more curious as we talked. Her polite smile turned into a genuine one. Quick to laugh, eyes lighting up as she chatted with us. She translated to her mother what it was we were after – lo-fi goods made in Việt Nam.
They both seemed proud when we “oohed” over how smooth the pens wrote, how fine the tip was on the white-out pens. When we asked if we could pour through the stacks and stacks of folios, hand-picking the ones we wanted for STMT x Việt Nam? They pulled up plastic stools so we could work in comfort. (AND wrapped up the ones we selected in kraft paper… RAD AND HUNGRY style!)
While we were testin’ pens, a young woman came in – dressed fashionably, face full of makeup. She cut in front of us and asked where Starbucks was. Gia didn’t understand at first, and the tourist grabbed a pen, about to write on our goods. Ummmm, no!! Hen stopped her in time. The tourist wrote “Starbucks” on the back of another notepad, and Gia understood – but said sorry, she didn’t know where one was around here. The tourist left without another word – no thank you, no nothin’.
“She was rude!” we said.
“Yes, but very beautiful,” Gia said.
“That doesn’t matter!” Hen said. “She may be pretty on the outside, but she had no beauty on the inside. That’s what counts.”
Gia laughed and translated for her mother. Mom busted out laughing and gave us a big thumbs-up.
As we were gettin’ ready to go, we pulled a business card from the stack on the glass counter. The girl pointed proudly to the name of the shop – “That’s my name.” A mom-and-pop shop named after the daughter? That’s the kind of family affair we love.