Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Part 1

My daughter planned our Ho Chi Minh itinerary. Minus flying time, we had five days for this trip, including a side trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  She really packed a full schedule!

I have heard from friends that there are lots of motorbikes in Vietnam but I was still overwhelmed when I saw them firsthand.  WOW! There are really lots and lots of motorbikes! We were staying at the Tulips Hotel and it’s location was ideal; most of the places we wanted to visit were within 5-20 minutes walking distance. Crossing the street was always exciting; when you think it’s safe to go, there would be motorbikes popping up suddenly from unexpected places.  

We accomplished a lot on our first day. After having some money changed at a pawn shop in the Ben Thanh Market area we proceeded to Pham Ngu Lao (backpackers’ district) where we bought bus tickets for the trip to Phnom Penh (the next day).

Among the places we visited were: the Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts, the People’s Community Hall (aka Ho Chi Minh City Hall or Hôtel de Ville de Saigon), the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office, the Saigon Opera House, and the Reunification Palace (also called the Independence Palace).  Along the way, we passed by a Hindu Temple, a Buddhist Temple,  many sidewalk food stalls and street vendors. Aside from regular merchandise, there were also interesting and exotic stuff for sale (insects, snakes in bottles).

Fine Arts Museum

Opera House

People's Community Hall

Notre Dame Cathedral

Post Office

Reunification Palace

A Hindu Temple

A Buddhist Temple

Sidewalk food stalls

Street vendors

Exotic merchandise

We did a lot of walking; we just did not have the courage to get on a motorbike so we declined offers of tours on motorbikes. I enjoy walking but it was quite hot and humid. When we were in front of the Opera House, I saw a street vendor who was selling “buko” (young coconut). I was really thirsty at that point and ordered two pieces (one for my daughter, of course). When I asked how much it cost, I was shocked! The guy said VND 150,000.00! That’s about US$ 7.00! more than PHP 300! Seriously!!!??? We told the vendor that we were from the Philippines and buko there was much, much cheaper (PHP 50 is already a high price). We haggled and he brought the price down to VND 70,000; still quite expensive but I was thirsty.

How much? Seriously??!!!

We stopped for lunch at a place called “Café Zoom”, a Vespa-themed café (yes, more motorbikes). You can watch the traffic go by (again mostly motorbikes) as you enjoy your meal.

We were able to get tickets for that afternoon’s water puppets show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater. By then our legs and feet were really, really tired and sitting down for the show was a welcome break. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides the background music and the narration is in Vietnamese. We may not have understood exactly what they were saying but we got the gist of the story and we enjoyed the show nonetheless.

Water puppets show

We were pretty tired after all that walking so we just bought some food and headed back to the hotel. We had to get up early the next day for our trip to Phnom Penh!

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