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Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

sunny 32 °C

In usual fashion, the bus moved slower than a snail to Saigon and even though it was only 120 miles, it took 5 hours! Once we got into the city, you could feel the energy of the big city and we remembered how much we like places like this! The bus dropped us off right in the middle of things and we found a hotel quickly. We were eager to walk around and explore! Our hotel was nice enough, even had aircon for $11! We found a restaurant that advertised Tacos, Enchiladas and other Tex-Mex favorites and we knew that was where we were eating, the food was pretty good (no Taco Fiesta or Village in, but passable). We walked to a park area where we found lots of locals hanging out playing games, badminton, sepa, BMX biking, skateboarding, it was really busy with activity! We wandered the crowded streets and found a little bar, whose customers where literally spilling out onto the street and decided to sit down for a couple 25 cent draughts, we watched the street life for a couple hours and finally called it a night!

The next morning we got a good start to the day and decided to do a walking tour of this busy city. We started off at Pho 2000 for a great bowl of pho (we also noticed that President Clinton ate at this restaurant as was obvious by the sign which said "Presidential Pho"& a huge picture of the event on the wall!) This day we did ALOT of walking around teh Dong Khoi area, noting the colonial architecture of many of the buildings and enjoyed lingering by some of the cities many green areas. We walked past the Reunification Palace and decided not to go in, instead we continued to the War Remnants Museum, unfortunately it was closed for lunch and we found we had about an hour to kill. We walked back for some ice cream at a place called Fanny's that we found in the book, the building was adorable, with an open seating setup, their icecream was all quite creative, with some shaped like cyclos (the pedicabs in Vientnam). After a refresing break, we headed back to the museuam which was really interesting. There were many captured military relics from the American War and the displays inside followed the tregedy of the war in Vietnam. There were several moving exhibits one which had pictures of all the photo journalists who died in the war. There were also some informational displays including ones that showed all the American bases in Vietnam along with their symbols and nicknames. There were also some horrifying exhibits including one about the My Lai massacre and the lingering effects of landmines (its still dangerous over here, there were photos of victims dated as recently as 2006) and Agent Orange (which still causes birth defects in many areas). After the museum, we needed a break and decided to see a water puppet show at night. We bought tickets and then had another hours or so to kill beofre the show so we found some street food, Nate had a delicious sandwich on a fresh baguette for only 50 cents! We also did some internetting. Finally it was time for the show, it was a really cute show, they had little puppets dancing in a small pool of water accompanied by traditional music, it was narrated in Vietnamese and eventhough we couldn't understand it, the show was quite funny!

After the show we went to dinner at Quan An Ngon, a restaurant with traditional Vietnamese dishes. The place was crazy busy with locals and tourists which seemed to be a good sign. The set up of the restaurant was really interesting, there were little stations all around the garden like seating area, each station was in charge of a different kind of cooking and you could watch them make your food or just wander around before eating and pick whatever looks good. We were not disapointed with the food, we got some delicious vermicelli with spring rolls, beef salad, chicken satay and pork with broken rice. As usually we ordered way to much but it was worth it!

On our way back to the hotel, Nate found some lightweight zip off pants for sale so we did a little shopping, getting him a couple new pairs of pants and a few new T shirts, all things that will come in handy as we hit higher temperatures! After a long day of walking, it felt good to hit the sheets!

Our second day in Saigon we began the day by heading out for some breakfast, we had tried one famous Pho shop the day before and today we wanted to find another. We went to Pho 24, which is supposed to have the best in town, we thought it was only okay but certainly not the best we ever had. After eating we decided to head to the CHolon District of town, which is the "Chinatown" of Saigon. We took a taxi, but quickly discovered that it was the rip-off kind as the meter was jumping eratically and VERY quickly, it ended up costing us $5 to go about 3km and we didn't even get all the way there, we made him stop after we realized what was happening. We walked the rest of the way and headed to Quan An Pagoda. It was a Buddhist Temple that was different in many ways from temples we had seen in China but it had some familiar characteristics too (gaudy gold decorations and insence sticks everywhere. We wandered some more though Chinatown and found that people were really friendly and some seemed to get a kick out of the Beijing Olympics shirt that Nate was wearing. It felt a little like home in this area, with traditional medicine shops, Chinese restaurants and of course a KFC (which we just had to stop in, it was much nicer than those in China, real plates for the chicken and soda was served in real glass!). Nate got to practice his Chinese reading skills on many of the signs. But it was a hot day and pretty soon, we were ready for some iced milk coffee and found a tiny little cafe and relaxed for a bit.
We decided to walk back rather than get ripped off again so we strolled for about an hour, stopping for a street sandwich, until we made it back to our hotel. We did some major interenting (put pics up on picasa) then stopped for some pizza and finished the night off with 25 cent beers!

The next morning we had to wake up early for the minibus to Chau Doc. An SVU picked us up and acouple other passengers and brought us to the bus station. One of the passendgers was a really nice Vietnamese guy who spoke pretty good English, he was headed the same place as us so he helped us figure things out. The minibus was fine, only 6 hours, an hour less than we were expecting! Our driver, for the first time in Vietnam, reallyu hauled down the road, barely slowing for bumps (we hit our head on the ceiling a couple times =) The drive took us through the Mekong Delta area where there are many small rivers winding through towns built on stilts, the scenery was really interesting. Of course, we stopped at a cafeteria style restaurant on the way and had some okay (cheap!) chicken on rice for lunch both of us ate for $3! We finally arrived in Chau Doc around 3pm...

Posted by heidigras 07:32 Archived in Vietnam

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Saigon! Always wanted to go there, sounds like you guys are having an awesome time. Still plan on the Philipines? we'll be there April 20-30.

by e1quarnst

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