A day in Ho Chi Minh

Hi all!

I’ll end my last post of the year with the first post of my trip to Vietnam. This time round, the visit to Vietnam left me with mixed feelings of sort.  I’m not sure if it was the cities I visited  or the fact that the end of this trip would mark a return to reality. Regardless, let’s go back to Ho Chi Minh (HCM)! It was late December when we landed in Vietnam and the days were short. Of interest to note was the mis-match of New year and Christmas decor that lined the streets. It seemed as if the people can’t quite decide between either events or have decided to mashed them in an attempt to save cost.  After settling in, we headed to a market patronised by the locals, upon the recommendation of my uncle’s colleague. Our goal: to find a maker for silk cushion cover.

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Alas, shops were closing and we were not having much success (language was a problem). So we headed to the more touristy Cho Ben Thanh market.

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But by the time we arrived at about 5.30pm, most of the tenants were closing up! Weird, but it was perhaps due to the opening of the night market on the street just beside Ben Thanh market. If you’ve the time, I strongly encourage you to people watch the stall holders setting up their stalls along the roadside as night falls. It was an interesting sight as we rushed off to meet my uncle’s colleague for dinner.

If you’re aiming to do some shopping, Saigon Square, further up from Ben Thanh market would be a better bet. The things there are slightly cheaper, the shop owners less pushy and there’s air-con!

Exploring the city after dinner took us to a leisurely stroll along the walking street (district 1), located adjacent to our hotel. Admiring the lights and witnessing intriguing acts of locals flocking to a Christmas tree or the fountain (you get my drift) to grab a gazillion pictures with them. I’m actually mildly impressed and slightly annoyed with how many model-poses they can come up with, because waiting for them to finish taking their pictures with a structure can sometimes take a while😱.

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Perplexed by the number of Japanese restaurants I’ve seen scattered about the city but perhaps it just district 1…

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Fluffy, green flowers on display in a flower shop
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Technically, the pictures below begun the next day, but if you’ve a whole day in HCM you could (theoretically) cover the places listed here in one day, haha.

So we originally hired a driver to bring Cao Dai temple and Cu Chi tunnel. But, the driver was unfamiliar with the road and he drove so slowly that a journey to the temple that could take 2 hours ended up taking 4+ hours. Think 40km/hr as normal speed and 60km/hr as fast on the expressway. If this is the speed limit, I’m just wondering how Vietnamese are not late to their appointments a majority of their time. Unless they wake up super duper early. O.O So we only reached the temple at about 1pm despite leaving the hotel at 9am and could only give Cu Chi tunnel a missed as we haven’t even had our lunch yet.

About 80 years old, the Cao Dai temple is visited by Caodaists, a monotheistic religion. It has a symbolic divine eye, which represents the left eye of God. Males are to enter the temple from the right and females from the left. During prayer session, one can observed worshippers (of a higher rank) in three different colors – yellow, red and blue. This represents the buddha, confucianism and taoism respectively.

Worshippers are normally dressed in white and roads in front of the temple are blocked when prayer is in session.
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It was interesting to see how colourful and ornately designed the temple was.

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We headed back to HCM after our temple visit because our original scheduled plans were simply not feasible based the driving speed and poor sense of direction of our driver. Randomly dropped by Mon Hue for lunch/dinner, because it was one of the few shops which was not exorbitantly priced and was selling some form of Vietnamese food at such a late night. I think there are many outlets scattered about the city. I had the stir fry pork with dry noodles and it was okay. Though the pork strips had far too much fats for my liking…

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After dinner, we attempted to walk to the Notre Dame cathedral and the Post office. Of course, even with google maps we can’t help but get lost (or maybe we took the long way) to our goal. But this allowed us to passed by the pretty christmas lights outside Sheraton Hotel. And like shameless tourists and asians that we are, we went in to take a picture 🙂

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The opera house was stuck in the middle of a road junction. I don’t fancy putting my life in danger for a picture, resulting in this weirdly angled shot of the building.

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Finally, we found the Saigon Central Post Office and the Notre Dame cathedral. A short distance from our hotel but the roundabout route to get here made it seemed like a super far one. But till the next post, bye!

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Here’s wishing all my readers, an early happy new year!

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