Saturday, January 13, 2018

First day in Ho Chi Minh City

After getting to bed at 4am and looking forward to a nice 2.5 hour sleep in a flat bed before having to get up at 6:30am a rooster started crowing at 5am....and continued. Other roosters were quick to follow his example. Who thought there would be roosters in the heart of the city? We got up at 6:30 and had breakfast at the hotel dining room at 7. Breakfast was a buffet mix of North American breakfast food and Vietnamese cuisine including garlic shrimps, stir fried vegetables, raw veggies, salads and a gelatinous chicken soup. You could also order eggs and other types of soups.

Then after a quick visit to our concierge to book a few day tours, we hit the streets.

Our first stop was a nearby local market. The fish and sea creatures were so fresh that they still wiggled and gasped for breath. I felt sorry for them.

The traffic here is unbelievable; a never ending barrage of whizzing Vespas and cars. The honking never subsides. Many of the motorized bikes carry families of four or more. There are not many traffic lights so crossing the road is a sheer act of courage. We finally figured out that you say a prayer, walk out slowly into the chaos and like the parting of the Red Sea the traffic miraculously makes way for you. 

We hailed a cab to take us to the War Remnants Museum which graphically documents the atrocities and brutality of the Vietnam War from the North Vietnamese perspective. A victim of the war approached us and lifted the stump of his arms to shake our hands.

The museum relates the Vietnamese point of view. US military helicopters, tanks, bombers and other military vehicles are displayed in front of the museum. Even a guillotine is on display along with examples of the prisons and methods of torture used on the Vietnamese people. Most upsetting were the pictures; not just soldiers but murdered women, children and babies. I couldn't look at it all. It was so cruel and haunting.

The weather was hot. We continued to the Reunification Palace which was the head of government and home of the South Vietnam president during the war. This is where the North Vietnamese tanks tore through the gates in April 1975 at the time of Saigon's official surrender and the end of the Vietnam War.

The palace is a page out of the 1960s in decor and architecture. Two of the original tanks are still on the grounds and a US helicopter is on the roof.

Soon it was time for some lunch. We went to a recommended restaurant nearby called "Propaganda". It was good but not outstanding.

We next walked to Notre Dame Cathedral. We could not go In because it was under restoration.

Across the street was the beautiful old colonial styled Saigon Post Office which was designed by Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower). It now houses many souvenir stalls.

We walked over the the beautiful Opera house and down to the river. By this time I was exhausted due to the time change and my feet were killing me so Cora and I grabbed a cab back to our hotel while John walked around some more before returning to the hotel.

After a refreshing nap and a different pair of shoes, the three of us headed out for the evening.

The traffic was every bit as crazy at night as it was during the day. Food vendors filled the streets. We walked through a busy market filled with more food venders and wares. 

The nearby large park was alive with entertainers, group exercise classes, and people playing badminton in lit up areas. We passed p a parking lot of Vespas that seemed to go on forever.

Supper was eaten at a restaurant called Five Oysters, across from our hotel. It had a great view of our hotel's overly lit up rooftop bar. We also tried one of the craft bears that Saigon is known for. Unfortunately, after supper we had all hit a wall so we decided to forego our massages and rooftop drinks for an early night to bed.

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