Surviving Saigon & finding Shangri-la in Singapore

Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

After a good breakfast we hit the streets into a sea of people, motorbikes and noise, The first thing we notice is that where do you park the thousands of motorbikes that come into the city each day, on the footpath of course, all over the footpath so that in most places you are forced to walk on the road. As there are no parking metres, they have men who control the footpath parking by writing some obscure symbol on their bike seat in chalk and charge accordingly. Then some woman sets up a cart as a mobile pho (food) station with 20 little plastic seats to try and make a dong or two.

Most of the must see city sights are within walking distance, first up is the Notre Dame Cathedral completed in 1889 and was the largest church ever built by the French Empire, next is the GPO that was designed by Gustave Eiffel and completed in 1891, the French were busy bastards here. We walk on looking for the Saigon River but take a few wrong turns and go the long way where no tourist has been since the French left. We are assisted by a friendly lottery ticket seller and buy some tickets in appreciation. Find the river and I am looking for a sit down as it is getting very hot, 35C, so we negotiate a nice cruise on the river for 1 hour including cold beer.

It is not until we pay, that we see this poxy old boat pulling up at the wharf and we are told to get on, here's your can of Tiger. You would not say that the Saigon River is the most picturesque waterway in the world as it is littered with piles of water hyacinth that are washed down from Thailand. Most of the other boats look like sinking at any moment, not like our sturdy craft, and the other side of the river is mostly swamp and is undeveloped. Anyway it was nice to sit for while and the beer was cold.

In the afternoon we visited the Reunification Hall which was occupied over the years by several Presidents, bombed by their own airforce, rebuilt and occupied by the South Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. On the roof it has a replica of the helicopter in which the President flew off in prior to the tanks crashing through the front gates. Outside are the Russian and Chinese tanks used by the North Vietnamese. We decide that this will be our one and only war time highlight of our Tour and once again thank my lucky stars that my number didn't come up for National Service.

Back to the Hotel to freshen up for evening canapes and cockails, we get one of the stewards to check the numbers, which are drawn daily and promise him 10% of any winnings but we bomb out. For dinner we try the hotel's Italian Restaurant, Basllica, which was very nice then out to the night markets where we had some fun with some heavy bargaining.

Wednesday 23rd

Woke up feeling a bit off colour, must have been that foreign food I had last night, we explore the shopping streets and make our way back down to the Saigon River with a couple of brief stops on the way.  It is nearly mid-day by the time we get to the river and it is getting hot, we have a look at a beautiful old colonial hotel, The Majestic, that has a roof top bar that needs investigating and we enjoy a couple of cocktails looking out over the Saigon River like a couple of old war correspondents. Head on back to the hotel for a rest hoping for recuperation, put on a DVD, The King's Speech, which is very good but manage to fall asleep just the same.

Manage to make it back up to the Club Floor for evening cocktails, but could only handle a coke, checked the lottery tickes we bought today, no luck again and back to bed.

Thursday 24

Up early, feeling a lot better, catch a 9.00am flight to Singapore which is an easy two hours. Get a cab and to our surprise he speaks English, knows where our Hotel is and does not beep his horn every 10 seconds, civilisation at last. We arrive at the Shangri-la and it looks very suitable up to the high standard that the tour has set. We have booked a clubroom and on check-in we hear those lovely words " you have been upgraded to an executive room Mr Huppatz" which turns out to be twice the size of a standard room (60m2). To top things off there is nice little birthday cake waiting for Julie in the room. (How much can one man milk a birthday.)

Julie decides to hit the streets while I hit the bed and we are soon both happy. At 4.00pm a thunderstorm comes over and it pelts down for 20 min with the usual thunder and lightning. She makes it back dry and safe with a couple of shopping trophies and we hit the Horizon Lounge on the 24th floor for pre dinner cocktails, Singapore Slings of course.

This evening we have a booking at Restaurant Blu which we initially had planned to visit on Julie's actual birthday, but found out that they were not open on a Sunday night. It is on the same floor as the Horizon Lounge and has a great view over the lights of Singapore. We decide to go for the menu that first attracted us to the place, The Experience, It is similar to a degustation menu except there is no menu, the waitress comes out to discuss your food likes and dislikes, any food allergies and then prepares a six course menu for you to accept or change. To get the maximum experience we choose one menu based on seafood and one on meat, sat back with a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sav Blanc and waited, The food that was served lived up to the word experience, it included things like, Roasted Foie Gras Mousse sandwiched in Pineapple Meringue, Caviar Waffle with Chives, Cream and Egg, Scottish Smoked Salmon, Grilled Canadian Lobster with a Pamersen Cheese Crisp, Roast Wagu Beef, Spiced Roast Lamb
One of the highlights was a dessert that was called breakfast, it looked like a large fried egg on a bed of bacon on baked beans. The yoke was mango puree, the white was a coconut dessert held in a clear case on top of passion fruit cream. To finish they presented a Blossom Tree where the blossoms were made of fairy floss and the dirt and leaves in the pot were edible.
What an experience and something else to remember from our trip.

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Mr Dudley on

I cannot get my head around the breakfast dessert, my tastebuds would be so excited for bacon and egg and it would be sweet Well Phuc me!!!! You two certainly pack plenty in where ever you go. Thanks for the blogs. See you both soon and be safe..P.S. Can you do a reccy at Marina bay sands for us to see if we could be entertained there. Thanks

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