An evening of Vietnamese Culture

Trip Start Feb 22, 2013
Trip End Mar 21, 2013

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Monday, March 18, 2013

We enjoyed an evening ashore in Vietnamese style. Leaving the quayside and MS Balmoral and were taken to one of the best hotels in Ho Chi Min The Majestic, built in the 1920's and still full of exquisite charm, this was obviously a very opulent hotel in it's hey day and still is today. The  bell boy in his pillbox hat opened the doors and then escorted to the lift and taken to the 8th floor. Wow we were in for a lovely surprise, the 8th floor had an open verandah overlooking The Saigon River - there were several restaurant boats all along the watersedge and looked so pretty all lit up, we could also see MS Balmoral in the distance..
We were served cocktails and snacks before being entertained by local folk dancers and musicians. Some of the instruments were interesting as we had not seem such items before, ranging from stringed instruments to a xylophone looking piece but made up of bamboo poles of differing lengths the sound coming from the player cupping her hands to create the wind to pass through and create a unique sound. The dancers in their beautiful dresses were so elegant as they floated around the stage. The show lasted about 45 minutes, it was a wonderful setting preparing us for the next part of our evening a traditional Vietnamese meal. 
We left the Majestic Hotel  and travelled to another part of this vibrant  city - we pulled up in a quite ordinary looking street and couldn't really see any "special looking" restaurant, the police stopped the traffic  to let us safely cross the road, down a narrow alley to The Mandarine as very old traditional style restaurant. As we entered a string quartet with pianist playing greeted us.  Just a short walk from the not so interesting street was this delightful and traditional restaurant.
The decor of the restaurant was full of ornate carved panels and porcelain vases. We sat on a table with 4 other passengers who we had not met before so it was nice to catch up with their stories from the voyage.
The wine glasses were continually  being refilled as the various dishes arrived. Vegetable Spring Rolls, Steamed rice pancakes in lotus leaf, Banana flowers with grilled beef salad, Roasted duck, Sautéed Vietnamese spinach, Sautéed Beef in Bamboo tube - This intrigued us when tubes of bamboo came to the tale with the lower part flaming slowly, very intriguing ! The waitress, once the flame had been extinguished, then tuned the hot tube upside down and succulent beef strips with onion and a delicious sauce came tumbling  down the tube.
The final course was steamed rice beautifully presented in a lotus leaf. An ornate selection of tropical fresh fruit with Vietnamese tea brought the meal to an end.
Back to the ship where we met up with some of our friends and exchanging views of our cultural evening ashore. It made a very pleasant change to be eating ashore and take in the atmosphere of Old Saigon !
A lovely end of our time Ho Chi Min City
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