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Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970.
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970. (John Beard/Stars and Stripes)
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970.
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970. (John Beard/Stars and Stripes)
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970.
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970. (John Beard/Stars and Stripes)
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970.
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970. (John Beard/Stars and Stripes)
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970.
Siesta time in Saigon in April, 1970. (John Beard/Stars and Stripes)
At work, on the seat of a motorbike, in a hammock beneath a truck or just in the nearest comfortable spot, an early afternoon siesta was part of life in Saigon in 1970.
At work, on the seat of a motorbike, in a hammock beneath a truck or just in the nearest comfortable spot, an early afternoon siesta was part of life in Saigon in 1970. (John Beard/Stars and Stripes)

SAIGON — Suddenly the snarling swarms of Saigon traffic disappear, stores close their doors, offices are locked up and the street vendors fold their wares. To a newcomer it might convey impending doom but it is only the Vietnamese custom of siesta.

The idea of an afternoon nap during the hottest part of the day was introduced by the French. Apparently it sprang from the French "douze a deux" (12 to 2 p.m.) traditionally reserved for the Frenchman's daily meeting with his wife or mistress, followed by a nap before returning to work. The Vietnamese have successfully adapted the technique, at least the nap portion of it.

Every day from noon to 3 p.m. the city grinds to a halt. Any shady spot is appropriate. Taxi and pedicab drivers doze in the seats of their vehicles, construction workers snooze in the shade of a building and street vendors nap near their wares.

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