I was up early because my times were all screwed up. Joe was to arrive around 8pm and with my experience at customs and the taxi I knew he would not make the hotel till around 10pm at the earliest. This gave me the whole day and night to explore. Some of the things on my list by areas of the city:
- Dong Khoi Area
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Central Post Office
- River at Me Linh Square
- Da Kao
- Jade Emperor Pagoda
- History Museum
- Reunification Palace
- 23/9 Park
- ben thanh market
- War Remnant Museum
- Reunification Palace
- Tao Dan Park
- Nguyen Thai Binh
- Fine Arts Museum
- Antiques Street
- Little China – some markets and a Temple (Phuoc An Hoi Quan)
I also found a walking tour map in my Lonely Planet book. I took pictures of the pages that might be useful because I hate looking like that tourist walking around with the country guide in his hand. I would rather blend in like a local in Vietnam…right.
When I booked our hotels my only deciding factor, besides that it was westernized, was that it had a rooftop pool. It was probably one of the best decisions I have made in recent history. It was 95+degrees every day and the humidity was as thick as soup, molasses, etc.
I went up to the roof to get a lay of the city and took a quick dip
The building next to mine had helipad
I headed out on the streets and quickly ran into some local markets. Kinda strange, one street is high rises and helipads and the next is littered with pig carcasses and pools of fish. These markets were nothing compared to what we would see later in the week.
I got baptized to Vietnamese traffic. It was kinda like the soup nazi reference yesterday at the customs office. The street is just tons of scooters and cars with absolutely no rules (More on that later)
If you wait for a gap to cross a street you will be there all day. You must start walking into traffic and just be deliberate and slow. As you move the traffic will swarm around you kind of like a boulder in a river. If you make a sudden movement or show fear that’s when you get into trouble. Within no time I was just walking through traffic like a local. I did not realize how crazy I was until Joe showed up and we were talking and came to a corner. He stopped and I just kept going into the swarm of scooters. “What the hell are you doing!”, he says. That’s when I explained the process to him and he popped his own cherry.
I walked over to the big market where I put on my Anthony Bourdain hat to eat like the locals. I found a stand and grabbed some Udon noodles for $1 along with the local Artisan beer
A brief trip back to the hotel for a swim, shower and nap and back to exploring.
The below picture was interesting. Everywhere you went you saw the flag of Vietnam, A gold star on a red background. Typical communist color palate. But there was also tons of Hammer and sickle flags as well. I thought this was the former Soviet flag, which seemed odd, until a local told me that it is actually the general communist flag.
Vietnam is one of 5 communist countries remaining, but you really would not know it was communist unless you dug deeper as a visitor. People do not have socialized health care, the government does not control industry the way you might have seen in Cuba. The only glaring difference I heard was that people were allotted land so there was no reason you should ever be homeless. You could also sell/lease that land in some sort of arrangement that I did not fully understand. I am sure there is more government interference, I am just saying that it was not obvious to a traveler who spent 2 weeks there and asked a fair amount of questions about the lives of locals.
Here is a post office designed by Gustav Eiffel
I swear I hear about this guy everywhere. I was in Paris last month and saw his tower. I saw an elevator building he built in Lisbon last year and a couple years ago deep in the Amazon I came across a metal structure that also had his signature on it.
The is the Notre Dame cathedral.
As mentioned before, the French have a great deal of history here but I really did not see that much influence or lasting references to France. You had baguettes, but no one spoke French or really exhibited the cultural idiosyncrasies I saw in Paris. It can be said that a lot of the industrial advancements were due to French Influence and after they left the country has remained a bit stagnant. More on that later as we get into the rural areas.
I stopped by the War Remnants museum. Nothing too fancy just some old helicopters from the American war and a guillotine from the French
There are a couple French hotels in Saigon that have stuck around and have a lot of history.
I bought this lighter from a lady for $10. It had writings saying it was owned by a Military police soldier in ’65 in the Bong-Son area, but who knows. There did seem to be a lot of them floating around
Another trip back to the pool to watch a couple make out and then cleaned up for a few beers
I walked by the market at night and checked out the view from a couple rooftop hotels
I was trying to track Joe’s flight but could not find it. That was weird. It turns out it had an unadvertised stop in Hanoi before coming to Saigon. Joe did not know that either and it was a 4 hour sidetrip that makes an all day flight that much worse.
He did finally arrive and we went out for dinner and a couple drinks at the bar near the hotel called Apocalypse Now. It was loud and crazy on a Friday night. DJs spinning records and lots of attractive Prostitutes putting out the vibe. After about an hour we just wanted to get some sleep as we had to fly back to Hanoi in the morning.
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