What to say about Ho Chi Minh City Our first embarkation of our journey in Vietnam? “Fasten your walking seatbelt , its going to be a bumpy time”.
On July 2, 1976, Saigon officially changed its name to Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the revolutionary leader of Vietnam, although Saigon is still widely used. We decided to start in the south of Vietnam and make our way north in search of cooler lands. And I thought what better way to do this than to start in the iconic Ho Chi Minh City, a city made famous by the Vietnam war ( American War in Vietnam) What does this bustling metropolis full of tinker alleys , Ao Dai wearing women, Pointed bamboo hats, chaotic accident roadways where the human game FROGGER is an everyday phenomena, and blood red communist nationalism have in store for us?
Preparing for our journey to Vietnam was tedious. Being a communist country, there are a lot of ” red” tape so to speak to go through and prepare prior to arrival. It is important to read up about the country , its history, and what is required to enter. I did massive research via Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and Fodor’s travel books .
Visa: For American Citizens it is required. How to do this ?
Well you have 4:options:
- Visa On Arrival: Apply for a visa welcoming letter for your visa on arrival. It’s easy to do ( or so I’ve heard). Just do a simple search or try this link to Trip Advisor Forum: VOA $30 ( 30 day/ Single entry) You do have to wait in sometimes long lines to do it.
- Traditional Visa: Visit your nearest Vietnamese Embassy or consular and go the traditional route Cost $80 ( 30 day one entry).
- Loose Leaf Visa: Send in a copy of your passport after filling out the form online at Vietnam Embassy USA and a money order for $80 plus whatever fee is added, and 2 passport size photos, and a stamped return envelope . You will received your Loose Leaf Visa within 1 – 3 weeks after submission. Cost: Same as Traditional Visa ( 30 day one entry). This is a great option if you are running out of room as the traditional Visa takes up 2 full pages. CAUTION: Make sure you staple the loose leaf visa to your passport, should you loose it you are SOL. My mother and I did this and it worked out well! When I received our Loose Leaf visas in the mail, I stapled it to our passports so that it is easy to read.
- E-Visa . When I was about to travel earlier this year, this was just starting to become popular, even though I’ve heard and read about problems with it with officials who were not used to seeing such visas.
WARNING: This is extremely important information to know!!!!!!!
- Make sure you landing date is either on or after the start date of your visa, and exit date is either on or before your visa expiration. I’ve read horror stories from people who didn’t pay attention to that. Should your travels be extended, seek out a consulate and pay the crazy amount to stay longer, or just look into a longer visa.
- You are allowed only ONE (1) Entry and Exit. IE. If you fly into Vietnam, then fly to Siem Reap, which is in Cambodia, and fly back to continue touring Vietnam, you will HAVE TO HAVE multiple entry to do so.
Now that you got the basic gist of the minimal requirements, lets continue on my journey.
This time around I decided to travel with my 84 year old mother. I cannot tell you how much preparation I did prior to traveling with her. First off, we were traveling in the hottest time of the Year, Late April. With up to 100% humidity and temperatures in the high 90’s, I was taking no chances. I tried to vet her to walk while at home to get into shape, but this old lady was having none of that nonsense as she “walks” at the mall every week. Oh boy.
I got all our vaccinations, and even got a prescription for Malaria for when we head over to Cambodia to see Angkor Watt. I got us an executive level club floor room at our first hotel, and bought all sorts of vitamins to boost our immune system. But nothing would’ve prepared us for our first true day in HCMC… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We flew from Honolulu ( Daniel K Inouye International Airport) to Incheon (ICN) South Korea on Korean Airlines New Airbus A747-800 or 747-8i in business class. ( another review to follow on where this airlines has dropped to) where we had a 1.45 hr layover. Our flight was decent and comfortable but I’ll say more about it in a separate post.
After arrival at ICN, and going through a quick transit inspection, we shopped around a bit and walked down a very long hall and down some steps to ride our tiny 737-800 operated by Korean Air. They really pull all the stops with their aircrafts going to Vietnam, I was a tad bit disappointed by their choice of aircraft, especially for a 5+ hour flight, but oh well getting there is only part of the journey.
We arrived around 10:30 pm late at night at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. As we taxied to the arrivals gate, I could see the steam in the air. Passport control and customs was very easy. And within 15 minutes we were in the arrivals hall and exchanging our money. It is not worth using your ATM card to withdraw money in Vietnam as you are not allowed to take out more than 2- 4 million Dong ( the official currency is the Vietnamese Dong pronounced Zong not Dong…… you naughty people you ) which is equivalent to 90 – 176 dollars. And there are the fees associated with it. So we just decided to exchange about a thousand dollars at a Forex type station.
Next came the trickiest and most important bit of information I gathered while researching. HOW AND WHICH TAXI TO TAKE TO GET TO YOUR HOTEL.
First off let me explain a few things. Ho Chi Minh City/ Saigon ( now will be referred to HCMC) is broken up into districts. Most hotels and sights worth seeing is located in District 1 which is close to the Saigon River. Which is where we stayed. With that in mind, it is pretty far from the airport and getting the RIGHT transportation is important. Some people like taking the bus , but traveling with my elderly mother and 2 pieces of luggage, I opted for the quicker, and more convenient Taxi. Although I almost considered taking an UBER from the airport, however, wifi was so sketchy . And yes UBER and GRAB is readily available in almost all cities in Vietnam. You can even get a UBER XO ( motorcycle Uber )
There are only 2 taxis you should ever take when in HCMC.
Mai Lynn and Vinasun. They are trustworthy, reputable, air-conditioned, and won’t rip you off, or rather very very rarely will do so.
When you exit the arrivals hall, follow the signs to the taxi stand. You will be met by loads of unregistered or sketchy taxi drivers and private cars touting to offer you a ride to the city. DO NOT JUMP IN THE FIRST ONE YOU SEE.
Turn hard left and just keep walking ignoring every tout on the way.
At the very end you will see chrome bars.
That’s when you look for taxi marshalls in their company uniforms with either Vinasun or Mai Linh written on their company ties.
Should be under 200,000 dong to District 1.
So we did just that . And in under 20 minutes ( because it was Late at night by Vietnamese standard ) we were pulling up to our hotel.
We booked an Executive Twin room in the gorgeous business type and rather large and grand Lotte Legend Hotel. A Korean chain brand, the Lotte Legend offered us everything we were looking for. Comfort, beauty, location ( close to many sites ) , directly across the river ( we got a river view ) club lounge breakfasts , snacks, happy hour and finger foods almost all day long, a spa, pool, and fabulous restaurants, beautiful comfortable rooms with 2 queen sized beds, and a price tag to match but we didn’t mind. We were thinking of staying in other hotels, as there are many 5 star hotel properties as well as famous war-time hotels made famous by all the reporters and generals who used to stay there giving you a brief glimpse into the past, but we thought our choice was a good one. And yes it was a most excellent choice. You can see my review on this hotel here: Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon
Check in was a breeze, and we were in no time, in our room, unpacking and getting comfortable. The hotel was dead silent. We found out that they had a smoking room a few floors up from our room and we went up there to enjoy a cigarette in the controlled climate. We tried hard to sleep that night but it was already 1 am when we finally laid our head to rest. 3 hours later and we were up. Too much sleeping on the plane . Tossing and turning trying to get back to sleep was proving to be most difficult. The bed was so comfortable but time change, lots of rest on the plane, and ruined our first night of rest. Once 6 am came we rushed up to the executive lounge for our first breakfast in Vietnam and for our first glimpse of the Saigon River and the buildings in the distance. Today is a busy one for us as I am trying to cram a lot in. ( Note…. Don’t cram)
After breakfast, we headed out of the hotel through the pool side through side streets of Nguyen Siu street heading out to our first stop , The Saigon Opera House now known sadly as the Municipal Theater of Ho Chi Minh City ( not such an attractive name) . Along the way we passed through people setting up their food stalls, trash collectors, and business people getting their strong ( and absolutely ) delicious coffee. Some were sitting on tiny stools made for children in their first year of school enjoying some noodle soup for breakfast, as well as a few fabulous hotels. It was already 89 degrees at 7 am. and my cute painted face and well done hair was already a bag of sweat. UGH… My clothes were drenched… We found reprieve in a nearby hotel next to the opera house the Hotel Reverie. Wow this hotel just exudes class. But unfortunately it was out of my budget. After soaking up the lovely AC and using the bathroom there, we crossed the street and viewed the lonely looking opera house. The facade of the Opera house is beautiful and I can imagine what it must have been like about 5 decades ago with med clad in their tails and Indochina women in their cheongsam dresses and evening gowns. Unfortunately, the only way you can enter the place is through an official tour or by seeing a show.
We then crossed the street and made our way to Nguyen Hue Avenue where there’s a massive statue of Ho Chi Minh and the UBER famous / Infamous REX hotel . We stopped at the REX for some fresh juice, AC and to tour this famous hotel, where many a journalist wrote back home of the war. Even Walter Cronkite stayed here. I looked into staying at this hotel for a bit of history, however, I’ve read about its military/ country ownership and how it exudes communism . I don’t mind that really, but I just don’t like feeling like I’m some spy being watched. Sadly the hotel has probably seen better days. It is dark and dingy but you can still see the glamour .. They have a famous roof top bar which we didn’t get to enjoy, but it is also filled with the puffs of a million cigarettes as smoking in its lobby and almost anywhere for that matter, is allowed. While we did enjoy a cigarette and a drink, I can’t see myself walking through the lobby every day smelling like an ashtray .
We made our way up Nguyen Hue which is a pedestrian friendly street/ avenue stopping for photos with Uncle Ho Chi Minh, and gazed upon the beautiful People’s Committee Building. Winding around the Building en route to Notre Dame Cathedral. Yes they have one too. Remember that Vietnam was a colony of France for quite some time.
We did a quick Detour to the Old Post Office. Built in French Colonial style. The facade is quite impressive. It is still an operational post office, and although the interior isn’t as glamorous as the front , it is still an iconic building with marble floors, decorated ceilings, and wood works throughout the building. Free.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a tiny, but quaint looking cathedral with Romanesque architecture . That’s about it however, as the church itself is less elaborate and beautiful as its facade. This seems to be the case of the places we have seen so far. Beautiful from out but not from within. Oh well. Made it an easy tick off our adventure list.
By this time it was already 10:00 am and it was extremely hot. I could tell that my mother was having a very hard time traversing through the city as the heat is very taxing on any age. Maybe it was time for lunch. So we walked back heading towards our hotel, but stumbled upon a mini mall. Seeking some AC and some shopping therapy we tried our luck … Nothing worth noting, as the prices seemed to be more expensive than back home in the USA for international brands. So we soaked up the AC and quickly left.
Now I’ve read about and heard how much Vietnamese people enjoy gambling and also heard that there are number of casinos in HCMC , what I didn’t realize is that I would find one so quickly. My mother’s lit up when we stumbled across the Monte Carlo Casino Saigon which is right next door to the Marriot Hotel. Well there is one way to make my mother happy. AC, Smoke ok, and Gambling…. check check and double check. ….. $200 USD down and an hour of AC , free water, and a few cigarettes, I was ready to get the hell out of there before I spend my entire bank roll.
Winding our way through massive Scooter Traffic, dodging back and forth, I almost lost my cool on many occasions, and my mother. I had her glued to my hip with my hand guiding her through the carefree scooter traffic where crossing the street is at your peril. This is the most obnoxious thing about this city that I couldn’t stand. Human beings rank last, scooters first… You have to see it to believe what a real life FROGGER game looks like … Unacceptable. I did call a few people out to fight a few times, but that’s just the crazy ” American” or rather Hawaiian in me. Down right RUDE. But it is their country not mine, so I need to adhere and go with the crazy flow. By this time it was already well past noon, and mother was starving, hot, and agitated by the crazy traffic and far walk back to the hotel. We got into our first fight when she didn’t want to listen to me on how to get anywhere. She just didn’t trust that I did massive research, so I too was annoyed.
The street we first left on was now filled to the brim with parked mopeds and scooters everywhere , and it was equally annoying to try to find what little space there is left to safely walk back while dodging cars and moving scooters. ANNOYING … I did enjoy watching the locals eat from moving food stands, and ladies selling their food who have probably been doing this for decades. It was the real HCMC culture and I’m finally learning to appreciate it.
Finally back at our hotel, we decided to have lunch in our hotel lobby’s restaurant. It was the first and last time I ever had Pho in Vietnam. I guess because there was so much other delicious delicacies to be enjoyed than the typical Vietnamese PHO….
We retired to our room for a bit of a rest, to which my mother immediately knocked out, and so did I . 3 hours later we woke still drained and exhausted, but I was decided to make the best of this journey and see as much as we can. I would just have to be a bit more clever in achieving this goal.
Lesson 1: Leave early, and take a long siesta at Noon till 3 when it is the hottest.
When we awoke, and took our second shower of the day, I plugged in an address and headed off via UBER to the absolutely famous and UBER cheesy Ben Than Market. It is what the Patpong, Chatuchak markets in Bangkok was supposed to be like. Instead , all I found was cheap trinkets and t-shirts, along with pretty good-looking knock off Fendi. NOT INTERESTED> and to top it all off, it was super hot, full of touts, and sales crazy store owners, as well as smelly shrimp and brine in the food section. It took us all but 4 minutes to walk right out and across the street to the pretty Saigon Shopping Center. Where prices are astronomical for western wears, but pretty and beautiful to enjoy AC and a small bite to eat.
I tried walking with my mother in the direction of the Sri Thendayyutthapani temple. There are 2 main Hindu temples in Saigon, the Sri Thendayyutthapani temple.and the Marimman Temple. Both are somewhat close to the Ben Than Market and is a nice change from the sterile external facades we’ve been seeing. For some reason up until this point, I just don’t feel like I”m really in Vietnam. It is probably because of my mistakenly romantic vision of Ancient Saigon, with red-lit lanterns, and mysterious turns. All we’ve been finding is a traffic ridden, hot sterile place, albeit the colorful matrons selling their delicious food curb side. The Sri Thendayyutthapani temple was pretty and different from some of the Hindu temples I’ve been to in India, yet it was nice to say hello to the Gods again.
We decided to just give up on the day as we were still fighting jet lack, heat exhaustion, the never-ending HEAT, and a very sassy mother. Part of our deal with our hotel is that we can enjoy Happy Hour in the executive lounge , and enjoy it we did. We found out that happy hour comes with a lot of HAPPY FOOD to nibble on as well, so we had a full meal there and a couple of beers to go with it. Wow now I know why people love beer so much ( I’m more of a wine / cocktail drinker) , especially after a hot day . Intoxicated, full, and tired, we returned to our room, showered ( 3rd time) and settled in for a nice long nights rest. And so ended our very first full day and night in HCMC and Vietnam all together.
Day 2: We managed to sleep pretty long and well through the night, however, we were still up by 5 am. But that sure beats getting up at 4 and trying to go back to sleep again. We decided to do breakfast this time downstairs with everyone else at the very large buffet breakfast the hotel has. Wow I am so glad we decided to do this as it was HUGE or as the Trump person likes to say, YUGE.. Fresh juice making bar, omelet stations, eastern, western, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisines, something for everyone.
AT breakfast I was thinking of a few things I’ve experienced and some things I’ve learned. Like Lesson 1 : Go out early… I would soon learn another valuable lesson today, but that’ll come soon enough..
After Breakfast, we headed out for the day ( early and only a few hours )
First stop the Mariamman Hindu temple. Yes I know I already saw one. But I wanted to see this one as it is the most famous and is en route to all the other places I’m longing to see today. We took an UBER all while fighting early morning scooter traffic ( it’s worse than LA but with scooters instead) We finally arrived to the temple and stopped inside minding the touts from people selling incense, flowers, pigeons, etc and those claiming there is a fee to enter the FREE temple. Ha! The temple was more grand than the previous Sri Thendayyutthapani temple. All the Gods and Goddess were present staring so stoically at their humble worshipers. It was really pretty and a lovely way to start our day.
Next on our list of most important things to see today would be the Reunification Palace. A gorgeous Mansion in a tree lined district of the city . Unfortunately I got turned around and a bit lost on my map, to which my mother let me have it ….. We crossed a street or rather tried to when hundreds of mopeds zoomed right by us leaving us stuck in the middle of the road. As a very bad American tourist, my middle finger found itself in the faces of many un amused and robotic drivers who just whisked past us like we were or soon to be road kill. I was livid. With the help of a very kind a sweet police officer ( and cute mind you ) we were in our taxi heading the 5 minutes it took to the Palace.
Reunification Palace :
Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), also known as Reunification Palace (Vietnamese: Dinh Thống Nhất), built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. Courtesy of wikipedia
There is a small fee to enter the Palace, and a long walk to its grand front steps. There isn’t much to see really, but it is heavily guarded . The Conference room was very impressive with its mustard colors and pearl colored drapes and ceilings. But that was it really. There are impressive tanks on its manicured lawn and for a war enthusiast heaven on earth. For me, not so much.
A brief walk away, or what should be a brief walk was the War Remnant Museum, a jewel of war museums, and something I’ve been really interested in seeing. Unfortunately my mother couldn’t even make the 10 minute walk according to google maps to it, so we ducked into a coffee shop for some absolutely delicious iced Caphe Sua Da. Iced coffee with cream and sugar. YUMMMMM … Armed with the equivalent to liquid cocaine in our veins, we tried to walk again… But again the heat was too taxing on my mother and we started to squabble again. Fortunately there was a VINASUN taxi zipping by, I flagged him down and within 3 minutes we were at the front gates of the museum.
Lesson 2 learned: Take Taxis EVERYWHERE with mother, as it is cooler, easier and practically free. The taxis here are sooooo cheap. I’m talking like $1 for a 10 minute ride cheap….. So instead of having her endure the heat and her aching bones, I’m now going to catch taxis everywhere if she doesn’t feel like walking.
The War Remnant Museum: It was a tragic visit. I really was not as prepared as I thought I was when visiting this museum. It is basically a museum dedicated to the American War ( Vietnam War) and the atrocities caused by the Americans and her allies . I could only stomach so much. I couldn’t even take that many photos as most would cause most people to have nightmares for years on end. The effects and aftereffects on generations from Agent Orange is devastating and unacceptable. War no matter where or with who is a terrible thing. It hit me hard in the gut and I couldn’t take it. My mother was in awe and was sadden and moved by it.
After that tragic visit, we decided to brave the walk, and walked down to the Tao Dan Park. It was sweltering hot by this time, and the time was only 11:30 am. We were dripping with sweat, but not getting any skinnier as I was hoping to do . hahahaha….. All that delicious Vietnamese food I tell you. The park was relaxing and pretty .. Once one of the finest parks in Asia, it has seen better days. Never-the-less , the health enthusiast was there working on his abs, while the old men played chinese checkers, and the elder aunties swung from contraptions that looked like must have somewhat strengthen their hips.. It was nice to see locals in their element. I did have ulterior motives for our visit to this park.. There is somewhere, a bird cafe, where elderly men smoke their cigarettes while toting around their birds in elaborate cages and sharing some sort of memory of a conversation. Alas, I never found it , and in fact learned later, that they come early in the morning .. They too want to escape the heat of mid day…. Lesson 3: go early to Tao Dan Park to see the bird cafe. 🙂
Hungry, and Hot, I knew it was time to pull the dash… But where to? Oh ….. Bitexco Tower of course.. Why not dine in full AC high above the clouds over looking the city? A quick $2 cab ride away ( 13 minutes) and we were at the foot of this immense and massive building structure. The tallest in the city. We took the elevators up to the top floor and was seated in an area not so lovely to look out of and dine. The sun was bright and hot and it was packed with people who were balancing themselves on stools trying to sip their drinks and eat their food . The views were impressive, the menu not so much and the prices really not so much . We left the now moderately impressive building , and had a five star lunch at a cafe outside its base for pennies…. Delicious ….
After lunch , I asked my mom is she was up to walking back to the hotel or a taxi as the hotel according to google maps was only a 15 minutes max walk back, and we could see some of the cool shops along the way. She said YES!!!!! Of course 5 minutes into the walk she was already complaining. I was determined to make it back to the hotel. I followed the winding streets looking for shade to keep us both cool until we finally came across our moped packed side street and weaved our way to the small corner street entrance of the back of our hotel. I told my mom that I wanted to go for a massage up the road and that I’ll meet her later at the hotel. Nervous letting her walk the small steps back to the hotel, I secretly watched her enter the hotel gates and headed off to find me a massage…
Similar to Bangkok, HCMC is filled with massage joints. The trick is to find the one that the only happy ending offered is a good massage .. A lot of the joints offer alternative endings…. hahaha. I found one whose name I can’t remember. For $12 I could get an hour-long foot massage. The lady checking me in announced something in Vietnamese on the PA system, and a sweet girl came and took me upstairs to get changed. I noticed the lady who checked me in talking to a Westerner gentleman and smiling and saying ” Good massagy mister..” oh jeeeeeeeeeesssss. An hour later , feet healed, legs cured, I headed back to the dressing room where I found said lady washing her sensitive areas, and dressing back up .. I guess this place offered that kind of ending as well 😦 Oh well …
Back at the hotel, I took a nice hot shower, and relaxed for about an hour before heading to the lounge again for some happy hour Saigon Beer. The beer is really delicious… We decided to head out later in the evening for some dinner. But where to eat we had no idea. There are so many 5 star restaurants and some Michelin starred one to choose from. We decided to check out the area where all the 5 star hotels were like the Sheraton which also has a casino. Well you can imagine what happened, we ended up playing. My mother won $150 USD ( all games played in USD) while I lost a hundred. There are angry Korean men hoarding all the machines like 3 at a time, and the minimum plays were at least 5$. I convinced my mother to keep her winnings and to head out for some food. We walked around checking out all sorts of restaurants .. Little Korea town, Little Japan Town, and finally decided to try this cute little restaurant which I can’t remember the name but who’s food was gastronomical.. YUMMMMM>
After dinner we walked around a bit checking out the vibrant nightlife of the city. We are starting to finally get a little used to things. It’s not like I haven’t been in chaotic hot cities before, infant, I am an absolute lover of Bangkok. But this city just doesn’t have that sort of charm in my opinion. So I guess you could say I’m not really enjoying myself thus far.
We walked and walked and enjoyed the sights. We finally came across one of the most iconic hotels of the city. The Majestic Hotel is a French colonial style hotel built in the late 1920’s. Her decor is of an era gone by and it was so pretty and beautiful to me as I adore old historical hotels. I almost wish we chose this hotel. But the most alluring thing about this place for my mother was …. you guessed it…. There is a casino. UGH…… I’m so over it. As i don’t like the slot machines in Vietnam it’s not like Vegas at all. But ok lets check it out…. Well mother won $300 and I lost another $150… No luck for me .. but at least my mother is happy. It took everything I got to persuade her from staying … It was late, like 11 pm already and I was exhausted. We headed back to our hotel for some much needed sleep. Tomorrow is our last full day and night in HCMC.
Day 3: Our last full day in Saigon ( HCMC) and I had an itinerary … Yes I did… First stop after another absolutely fabulous breakfast was the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Hidden in a small street in the old district 1 ward of Da Kao is the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Built in 1909, This Pagoda pays homage to The Jade Emperor, the King of Heaven. The pungent smoke of thick incense sticks scents the air with mystical reverence. It is a beautiful temple . There are papermached statues of both Tao and Buddhist references. The turtles sunning themselves in the mossy dried out pond are either praying to the sun, trying to dry out, or praying for help. The devoted come here to ask for anything and everything , and leave behind wonderful gifts. There are multiple rooms and levels to this benevolent temple and it is worth walking up the ancient steps to view the temple from its roof top porch.
Next stop is a taxi ride away ( as will everything else be today ) .
We landed very close to where I journey started yesterday , very close to the Tao Dan Park and the Reunification Palace , at the HCMC Museum.
A Grand neoclassical museum built in the late 1800’s it houses priceless buddhist religious artifacts, as well as carvings from the Ancient Champa Dynasty. It was a nice and easy visit. FYI there is no AC in this museum. I repeat NO AC. But the ceiling fans, high ceilings, and darker rooms are cooler than the outside world so just know that before you head on over and you won’t be too surprised . 🙂
After the museum, we decided to head on over to the modern side of HCMC to District 2. Where modern condos and malls are set nicely apart from each other, giving the visitor an idea of space, something that does not readily exist in district 1. What nobody tells you however, is that getting there take about 40 minutes by taxi even though its less than 8 miles away…. Lesson 4 : Don’t go to district 2 in a taxi during rush hour. In fact don’t go period nothing to do and see except for space… If that’s what you’re into.
We decided we had enough for today and headed back to our hotel for lunch and Happy hour. We are getting way to used to all of this. This evening we had made reservations for a Water Puppet show in Tao Dan Park. Water Puppetry is a craft and a past time for Vietnamese people. Let me save you all the trouble. If you don’t have children, I really don’t think its’ worth it. Even though its cool , and it takes skill and art to do this, the puppets were worn down, the water filthy, the seats torn up and I expected to poked by a needle ( oh wait this isn’t NYC) and the show, um…. a bit boring. But I still appreciated it. And I hate writing things like this as it seems as if I’m putting its culture down, but I did see the exact same show on my trip back from Halong Bay to Hanoi , but that’s for another time.
After the less than desirable show, I had booked my mother and I a fabulous last night dinner at the uber Chic XU restaurant: Xu Saigon AT around $100 pp. for a tasting menu with wine flights, the meal was extensive, but the wine wasn’t that …. appetizing in my opinion. My mother was not impressed. The restaurant to me looked beautiful, and the bar/ club downstairs at street entrance is a happening place with beautiful people. The food wasn’t enough to merit such a hefty price tag. But we did it and now I can write about it I guess. It is a lovely place to come on a date or with friends. Dresscode is absolutely in effect. I would eat there again, but not with the tasting menu. Maybe choose my own bottle of wine and an entré would suffice .
Well it was our last night in the city. Tomorrow we leave for the Ancient capital city of HUE. And I must admit I was most looking forward to it.
I’ve learned 3 important lessons here:
- Leave early and explore the city. Everything opens early
- Take taxis everywhere or UBER’s for that matter as it is dirt cheap, air-conditioned, and comfortable
- Be ready for the heat, and for the crazy traffic and get into the rhythm of the city.
Would I return? If I had to , then yes I would. Would I want to? NO. No need to . But I think I should try it again just one more time just to say….
Next time I think I’ll try and use an UBER XO and zip through the city on the back of a motorcycle or scooter. I would pay for a sim card and unlock my phone. And I would take the time to shop the little stores that line the busy streets. I really did no shopping.
What I liked? The people are generally nice. There is still an air of the war here. The food is exceptional. Vietnamese cuisine is divine. The coffee is to die for.
Next up …. HUE… Stay tuned