Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ho Chi Minh Vietnam - Part 3

Other places

All our sightseeing within Ho Chi Minh City were done on foot and by our second day we were crossing streets like locals (fearless). Walking also gave us more opportunities to view interesting street scenes. Not only could you get your meals right on the sidewalks, you could also get a haircut, have your jeans repaired or enjoy a friendly board game match; or you could just take a nap under shady trees.

Street scenes

Tao Dan Park offers a welcome break from the city’s bustle. The lawns are dotted with interesting pieces of sculpture. It’s a peaceful place where people could meet, play, exercise; there’s also a Buddhist temple within the park’s grounds.

Tao Dan Park

The Nam Bo Women’s Museum is a center for educational and cultural activities. It showcases the role of women in building Vietnam’s society, including their active participation in the country’s defense during the war. We were there quite early; they literally opened the museum to let us in. There was no entrance fee and they even gave us a commemorative pin.

Nam Bo Women's Museum

We also passed by the War Remnants Museum but did not go in; we had just come from viewing the war memoirs at the Women’s Museum and that was quite enough (quite sad and depressing).

War Remnants Museum

Vietnam is known for beautiful lacquerware products. We visited the Tayson Lacquerware Factory and were given a tour. The gracious guide took us through the different processes involved in making the intricately decorated products. The attention to detail was amazing. We could not resist buying some souvenirs. 

Tayson Lacquerware Factory

For our other purchases, we hit Ben Thanh market. It seemed that Ben Thanh had just about everything you may want to buy – name it, the market probably has it. You could even get your meals there. The market stalls were open during the day; at night the merchandise moved out into the streets.

Ben Thanh market

Food section

Ben Thanh night market


At the hotel, the choices for breakfast were pho or Vietnamese-style baguette with eggs; these were served with either Vietnamese coffee (hot or iced!) or juice along with fruit. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup; it is usually served with beef or chicken and garnished with Vietnamese basil, mint leaves, and bean sprouts. I’ve heard that Vietnamese iced coffee was really good so I had to try it, even for breakfast. I liked their baguette too; it was light and airy, crispy and chewy. I guess baguettes are Vietnamese staples; I saw baguettes being sold by street vendors and at sidewalk food stalls. We also tried the pho at Pho 2000, the place where former US president Bill Clinton stopped by for a bowl.

Hotel breakfast

For a fine-dining experience we went to Hoa Tuc. Their outdoor seating was inviting but after all the walking we had been doing, we wanted to get out of the heat and humidity for a while so we chose to go indoors. Good call because strong rain suddenly poured.  We ordered passion fruit juice, shrimp chips, barbeque filet of snapper and a vegetarian omelet which was served with a plate of greens and dipping sauce.  Everything looked delicious and we proceeded to eat. We noticed the head waiter watching us and soon he was at our table. He politely asked me if I wanted to be shown how the omelet dish was to be eaten. Ooops, I was not eating it right?!!! Well, apparently not. He then showed me how I was to take a piece of the omelet, put it in the center of a leaf, wrap the leaf around it then dip the whole thing in the sauce before popping it into my mouth. Oh I see! It made eating the omelet much more exciting and satisfying. For dessert, we had sticky rice balls soup and passion fruit custard. It was raining pretty hard while we were eating but after our meal, the rain had stopped and the sun was out again. (Note: Hoa Tuc also offers Vietnamese-cooking classes.)

Hoa Tuc

My daughter had read about an ice cream parlor in the city; she had included it in our itinerary and we went to seek it out when we needed to rest and refresh ourselves from all that walking. Fanny Ice Cream was a cozy little shop which served natural ice cream; there were lots of flavors to choose from. Good rest stop.

Fanny Ice Cream Parlor

The last thing on our itinerary was “Xin Chao”; it was advertised as the “must see show of Vietnam”.  It was quite entertaining but not very polished. After the show, we had dinner then went back to the hotel to check out; then we headed for the airport.

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