Monday, July 2, 2012

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) - Let's Explore Together

My travelling legs wouldn’t stop itching. They indirectly, I think, were indicating that maybe, its time they walk me towards another travel blazer. Why not? Money was quite sunny with me, what should stop me? Nothing (Italy & Bangkok). After all, I also had to clear my leave. So, I ventured to Cambodia and Vietnam by joining a tour group. On my own along unknown people. Who on earth or heaven they are, I don’t know. But, one thing was certain. I had to pay more mainly for single room occupant. Didn’t matter to me, I can’t possibly share room with a stranger? No way. Not at all. The day arrived, I met the guide at the airport and up we went in the air to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon. To the Liberty Central Hotel straightaway, I think the rest of the tour fellows did notice me, but ice is yet to be perched open. Collecting my key, I went up to my room. Nice. No qualms. Clean and well maintained, I loved the fact that room came with a big window. Much needed for me to stare at the sky when I return after sightseeing.

Keeping aside my luggage, I refreshed and since our first itinerary will only begin at 6.00pm, guide suggested that we check out Ben Thanh Market. Walking distance. I sure did for 15 minutes, at the cheeky grins and scrubs of the locals, especially the motorbike male petty traders. Like I cared, albeit honestly, I was rather panicky.
Into Ban Thank Market, I did a few rounds around the row by rows stalls, all about local produce, I bought two pairs of slippers since the young lady trader literally wouldn’t let me go. I couldn’t refuse because she actually clicked as if we have known each other for years. Subsequently, because of my greedy eyes, I wanted to get some food. But all didn’t go well. The trader at the food stall I stopped by became quite rude. She insisted I must buy. Scary oh-boy! Did I buy? No. Neither did I want to stay any longer in Ban Thanh Market. I quickly bolted by walking back to the hotel.

From the hotel, we hopped into the coach for the Water Puppet Show. That’s when I made friends with the Indian elderly couple once we got seated in the theater. Show consequently started. Started promisingly. But within the next 10 minutes, I couldn’t take the loud music and akin the same act repeated over and over again. God! Save Me! I felt like hitting my chest or pulling out my hair. Boring. Escaping didn’t materialize due to darkness. Phew! Show ended, immediately I dashed out.

Puppet Show was followed by our first meal in Vietnam was in Quan Ngon 138 Vietnamese Restaurant. Admirable romantic ambiance, good goody food.  Aplenty to go around until table almost spilled over with, fish, salads, Vietnamese roll, soup, dessert and what not. End of day in Ho Chi Minh City.

Next morning, our sightseeing started in Reunification Palace, previously known as Independence  Palace. Significantly the place to mark the end of Vietnam War. The Fall of Saigon. The moment we walked into the huge compound, trill, frill and excitement spilled over the vintage cannons and tanks. Candid shots immediately.

Me especially, until guide had to literally “usshhh” us for walking towards Reunification Palace. Once inside, I broke away from my tour group for my own leisure in this majestic, airy and open Palace. The home and workplace of South Vietnam's President during Vietnam War, Reunification Palace, designed by Paris-trained Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu was built on the former site of Norodom Palace. Inside, you will see a series of rooms. Private quarters, dining rooms, entertainment lounges, president's office convention halls, entertainment room, meeting room, war room, ballroom and guest lodge.

True enough, Reunification is a huge. Do keep an eye on the signs so that you know where you are and where you should head next, instead of going round in circles before ending up at any eerie quiet corner all by itself. I sort of got lost. Scary. Especially, once I gasped that Reunification Palace indeed showcases what transpired during Vietnam War, causing over a million casualties, mind you, the after effects suffering I believe is still endured till this day. Therefore, my bad imagining ran high. I definitely didn’t want to bump into a war soldier or flying towards me army commando or suddenly, if I hear gun shots. Frightening right? So, each time I came to cross corner staircase, I quickly walked away. Nevertheless, I managed to cover all the floors till the last open air one where you will see the war planes. 

From Reunification Palace, we journeyed to War Remnants Museum. Utterly brain wrecking and emotional. The continuity of what we have already been exposed in Reunification Palace. Just that, its more tragic in War Remnants Museum. Imagine? Imagine what it would have been like? Losing your love ones, literally starving to death, hiding in dark holes, and maybe, being the torture victims of war era. War is merciless, isn’t it? It is. Come to think of it, I actually can’t imagine if I would have stayed alive during Vietnam War. Really grateful I am, not to say I don’t appreciated what I have, I do, I existed out of War Museum feeling grateful that I am physically and mentally normal. 

Up next, Saigon Post Office. Built by the renowned architect Gustave Eiffel when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century, this well maintained and stylish building with vaulted roof and arched window is the reminiscent of early European railway stations. Impressive on the inside as well. One spacious airy open area for easily moving around, unless there are other big tour groups, Saigon Central Post Office ceiling designed with arc shape and carried by two rows of steel pillars, and those colonial period phone booth which have been converted to ATM machine booths are admirable. Not many around, not in my country Malaysia though, on the grand concourse walls of Saigon Central Post Office, is the fascinating historic maps of South Vietnam, Saigon and Cholon. A mosaic of Ho Chi Minh takes pride at the end of this barrel-vaulted hall, Saigon Post Office now offers all kinds of traditional postal services like mailing, selling postcards or stamps and foreign money exchange. You can pick up souvenirs from the stalls, but seriously, I just glimpsed prior to existing from Saigon Central Post Office within 10 minutes.

Crossing over the busy street, I look across where Notre Dame Cathedral is. A mini replica of its counterpart in Paris and built in 1880 as a symbol of the French occupation in Vietnam. I was rather disappointed because church was close. A couple of pictures, we left for lunch, before journeying all the way to Siam Reap, Cambodia. 


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  1. Happy New Year Nava

    sorry I have not been here to greet you earlier. Took some time off from blogging

    HCM City looks like a good place to visit

  2. Looks like five star service here.

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