Taking Saigon

The hotel in Mui Ne, Vietnam was bad, but the AC worked great and the owner put us on a cheap and comfortable bus to Saigon. To our complete disbelief, this bus stopped less than a block from our downtown hotel (made even better by the fact that it was raining when we arrived).

They say there are nine million people and five million motorbikes in the city formerly known and still commonly referred to as Saigon. Faster, taller, brighter than Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City buzzes with energy. A capitalist hub in this communist country.

Day 1:

– Relax in our beautiful (and clean!) room

– Pho at nearby Pho Quyen based on the recommendation of a friend (one of many great suggestions, thanks Stephen!). The spicy pho bo ke (?) is some of the best of our trip.

– Make all arrangements for the next day then hang out at a bia hoi with a group of Vietnamese teachers who make me cheer in Vietnamese with every toast.

Day 2:

– Up early. Breakfast of eggs and bread. I just eat the bread because, well, I cannot eat eggs.

– We take a city tour with the company Delta Adventures. We hit the main sights – War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Chinatown market, a beautiful Chinese pagoda and temple – along with shopping stops that are interesting for only a few minutes. I sample weasel coffee (called this because this highly coveted coffee is harvested after the weasel digests it). I see rows and rows of disabled people making eggshell paintings and vases. But I’ve done all my souvenir shopping. No more room.

Overall, the tour is an overview of the city, but I’m left wanting more. Many times our bus would pass by large monuments and our guide would say nothing. In other occasions, I asked her about a part of the Reunification Palace and she responded, “I don’t know, I wasn’t born then.”

Day 3: The Cu Chi Tunnels. To be discussed in my next post.

Day 4:

Hot and sunny in Saigon, we walk around the city then sit in a coffee shop drinking iced coffee and eating beef stew and carrot cake.

Siesta.

I wake with a craving for Western food. A burger to be exact. We run into a place called Café Zoom literally seconds before a quick tropical downpour hits and I order a delicious bacon cheeseburger. I haven’t eaten anything this rich and meaty for a while. I feel a little rough after.

We hang out in our room for the evening eating popcorn and coconut-flavoured peanuts (a fantastic discovery in Vietnam).

We prepare for our retreat from Saigon.

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