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Winter Vacation - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2006/12/22

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!


View Winter Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

We woke up the next morning at 7:00 am; the time change got us again. We showered then made our way down to have some breakfast. There was a walking tour in our Lonely Planet book which we decided to do.

We tore the page out of our book so we could look at it quickly. I started off being our navigator. We left our hotel, found a Western Union to change some money and tried to cross the street. We chickened out the first time (and the second). On the third when all the locals were laughing at us we made it across. We wandered around for a bit more then realized that we were not on the walking tour at all. It turns out that I had us turn right out of the hotel when we should have turned left. Ooops.

We got going the right way and started on the walking tour again. The first stop was the Ben Than market. It was a huge market that sold everything. We wandered around the outside past the fruit stalls and some of the clothing stalls. Then we decided to take the plunge and entered the market.

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It was insane. Everywhere you turned there was someone else asking you to come in and buy something. Plus, the market just kept going and going. We were walking along and passed one stall and the women working there came out to talk to us. Next thing we knew she had hold of my hands and was trying to convince me to buy a Ho Chi Minh t-shirt and the other girl had grabbed Court and had taken her to the other end of the stall and was trying to get her to buy something else. This startled us because it was done so quickly and efficiently. Needless to say, we didn't buy anything and got ourselves out of there as soon as we could. We soon realized that that is the way things are done in Vietnam. Everyone is a very hard sell.

We wandered around a bit more and found a stall that was selling sunglasses. I found a nice pair of Oakleys (more than likely fake) and asked the guy how much they were. He said $15, so I haggled him down and paid $12 for them. I was quite pleased with myself.

We left the market and came upon a huge roundabout. After seeing this and trying to cross it, I will never complain about the rotary in Halifax ever again. It took us a couple of minutes to figure out what road we wanted to take then another 10 to actually get there. As we were crossing the roundabout we saw a lady that had a stall squat down on the side of the road, move her dress to the side and pee, just out in the open. It was very strange.

We got across the roundabout and walked through another street market until we found a shopping center. We went in to the drugstore, bought some water and snacks and some brands of deoderant that we recognized. We also picked up some lunch at a cafe there.

After lunch we crossed the street. It took a while because there was so much traffic, but we just waited until a Vietnamese family was crossing and walked directly behind them. The family got a kick out of it.

We also passed the Hotel de Ville, which was a large hotel built during the French occupation. However, now it is owned by the government and we're not sure if the building is actually used for anything or not. Also, there are uniformed (military) guards out front and lots of 'No picture' signs. We took this picture before we saw the no picture signs.

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We stopped by the Vietnam Airlines office on the corner to check out the flight schedule and prices for the rest of our trip. Then we continued on our tour to the War Remnants Museum.

We made it to the museum a little bit after it reopened after lunch. Which was good timing. We saw lots of mean, nasty, ugly things there. After we left we discussed the fact that in the last month we went to the A-Bomb Museum and the War Remnants museum. We discussed whether we should fly to D.C. straight away to go the Holocaust museum. We decided not to. This is Court by one of the tanks outside the museum.

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We left the museum significantly depressed and tried to find the reunification palace. Which, somehow we never did. I don't know how we missed it.

We continued on our tour to the Notre Dame cathedral, which is a massive church the French built in the middle of Saigon.

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We lucked out once again because it was only open for visitors from 2 - 3 and we arrived at 2. We went in and along each side of the church there were little alcoves that were dedicated to different saints. We figure people could purchase plaques to put in each alcove, so the alcove to Mary was full and there was another one that was empty (we don't remember who it was for). There were also neon signs in each alcove. Which to us didn't really fit in with the church atmosphere. We poked around some more, found out what time the Christmas services were at and headed across the street to the Post Office.

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The post office was also built by the French. We went in and there was a huge Christmas tree in the middle and lots of pictures of Ho Chi Minh on display. You could also buy many different Ho Chi Minh stamps. We poked around here and decided to head back to the hotel to shower and have some supper.
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Before supper we decided to book a couple tours and to arrange our flights for the rest of our trip. We got our hotel to get us prices and times for our flights. Then we went to three other places and found out that the prices and availability was all the same. We decided to book everything through our hotel.

We ordered our supper and by the time we got it, ate and relaxed for a while two hours had disappeared. But it was interesting watching all the tourists bustle around and all the people coming to sell us books, sunglasses, calculators, paintings, pot, perfume, sex aids, jewellery, lighters, tiger balm, or a shoe shine. This guy was smart because he looked at everyone's feet before he approached them. If they were wearing flops he stayed away. This is Court's meal from that day. Fried rice served in a coconut with a Pepsi in a glass bottle.

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After supper we went for a walk around the block and discovered some concert in the park. We have no idea what it was for (Aside: after a little Googling, it has been determined that it was the 62nd Annual Vietnam People's Army Day. ~CW) but we arrived just as the military band was leaving the stage. We stayed to watch all the singing and dancing for quite some time until we got tired of trying to figure out what was happening and I had to go to the bathroom. We went back to our hotel and packed it in for the night. These are a few shots from the park.

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Posted by agc_cwm 04:12 Archived in Vietnam

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