Sunday, 21 February 2010

Saturday 20th February

Sightseeing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)

Started on a walking tour of the city, although Caroline was enjoying SHOPPING, which distracted us (her) somewhat. Net purchases (very restrained): half a kilo of lychees, shampoo and two snakeskin belts.

Road crossing here is unbelievably scary, you just have to start walking slowly and hope the two hundred motorbikes and taxis avoid you on the way over. When it's a five or six way junction with several lanes running in random (literally) directions it's sort of down to an act of god to get you across in one piece. Caroline found herself making strange whimpering noises in the middle of a particularly bad one.

First stop was Ben Thanh market; a very sane affair compared with those in Cambodia. Next was the Fine Arts Museum - lots of pro-revolution Glory of the Fatherland stuff. Best seen at speed. It was in a lovely decaying French colonial house though. Gave the war remnants museum and the ex-presidential palace a miss although we did admire the captured American armaments displayed like enormous gnomes. The Post Office was a pleasant surprise, all wood paneling and old-style booths which provided telephone services, banking, post and even flower deliveries. You could have filmed a 1920's drama in here with little amendment. Next door to the Post Office was "Notre Dame", the Vietnamese version... All locked up so no prayers today - even when crossing the street.

Our confidence growing we went in search of the Jade Emperor's and Tran Hung Dao Pagodas. Bizarre! Vendors selling goldfish and terrapins outside which appeared to be offerings to be placed in a large pool - where they proceeded to eat each other. The temple was chaos: worshippers were practically stabbing each other with their joss sticks and the floor was knee deep in spent lottery tickets. We needed a Mocca Frappachino to recover. We are off into the wilds tomorrow so need to get in the delights of civilisation whilst we can.

In the evening we browsed a few art galleries and enjoyed the beautiful Tet lights.

In summary we quite liked Saigon, although it would not win any beauty contests; there were good shops and transport links and it's easy to walk around. Sounds like Birmingham.

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