Bird Song in the Morning
Trip Start Oct 04, 2011
50Trip End Nov 29, 2011
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Early morning start to watch Ho Chi Minh city wake up. There were not as many people exercising in the parks as in Hanoi - but maybe that’s because it had rained in the night and everywhere was rather wet.
Had an early morning Vietnamese coffee - strong with condensed milk - is the garden of the Saigon Bird Club. The garden was full of men who had brought their caged birds out for a morning constitutional and the meet their friends. There were places to hang the bird cages whilst the men sat on the little plastic chairs which characterise all Vietnamese cafes and drank coffee and chatted (the women were all at the markets buying the days food) The birds just sang to each other!
David and the guide then went to have some beef noodle soup at the café where Bill Clinton had had noodle soup when he was in Saigon - apparently it was very nice (I went back to the hotel as I couldn’t face noodle soup that early in the morning!).
We then tried to follow the walking tours which I had photocopied from our guidebook. Unfortunately they seem to be pulling down a lot of the old French colonial buildings in Saigon and building tower blocks so a lot of the buildings the guide book told us to go and see where no longer there - they were just hoardings and building sites (and the guide book was only a couple of years old at the most). I think in 10 years time Saigon will be indistinguishable from other major cities (but I feel that Hanoi will stay the same - there is still a very big north/south divide even though the country was unified 35+ years ago).
Went to the Jade Emperor Pagoda - very beautiful and there were lots of turtles in a pond (they are considered lucky) - from tiny ones to enormous ones. There was one poor little one on its back floundering in the water - but luckily when we went back to look it had righted itself - I was very worried about it! Wandered back to the centre to look at the Catholic cathedral and the post office which is in a marvellous old French style building - then coffee at our Starbuck ‘s equivalent and back to the hotel for a cool down
We then took a taxi to Cholon - China Town - to look at some of the pagodas there. The carving on one of them - Thien Hau Pagoda - was so exquisite - I have never such detail on carvings before. One of the streets we walked down specialised in making jewelled headdresses and masks - not quite sure what for but they were very impressive.
Wandered into Ben Thanh market again on the way back (the one by our hotel) - the stall owners all try to attract your attention to go into their shop - poking you and prodding you and pulling at your arm as you go past. They just don’t seem to understand the concept of “Just Looking” - you have to try not to be seen to show interest in anything or you get bombarded with questions about how much you want to pay for the item - they follow you along reducing the price until I’m sure they can’t be making any profit at all. They put their initial price on a calculator , show it to you and then clear it and invite you to put your offer on the calculator - how did we manage to haggle in foreign countries before the calculator!
Our plans for the next couple of weeks are changing at the moment due to the floods in Thailand - at the moment we think we are going to go to Bangkok later in the month and will miss out Ayuthaya completely as it is still very flooded - but we’ll know more when Mark has finalised the new bookings for us.