We could go on the tours and do all the tourist things, but then we'd miss out on the everyday life and the local culture. We've spent the majority of our time just walking the streets and talking to the locals. There are many old colonial buildings still being used today....the Post Office is a fascinating place with it's architecture...and so well kept. The Notre Dame Cathedral, built in 1880 is still being used..although now holds a flat screen t.v. on each of it's pillars inside. The locals still appreciate the beauty of their city...we've seen about 5 or 6 newlyweds having their wedding pictures taken outside the old structures
. The city is full of parks too...well maintained and clean. The locals gather at the parks in the evenings and the street vendors come around selling their snacks. It's such a fun environment! We were on our way home one evening and came across a scooter with huge stereo speakers hooked on the back! It was blaring out some Michael Jackson tunes...our curiosity peaked and we took a look. The scooter was positioned across the street from a couple of street restaurants, packed with locals. There was a guy, dressed like M.J. and pulling off his moves in the middle of the street! Cars would drive by and he would dance around them...it was amazing that he didn't get hit by one of them. Just right there, in the middle of the street, a Vietnamese Michael Jackson, strutting his stuff! He was really good and entertaining.
We took a taxi to a market recommended by our hotel to try to find some Tea Tree oil...which doesn't seem to exist in Vietnam. The market wasn't very good, so we decided to just walk around. We stumbled upon an old Catholic Church, bright pink in color...I've never seen a church so pink before! Beside the church was a huge statue of Jesus and a beautiful park with stone sculptures for each of the stages of the crucifixion. It was stunning.
The Saigon River needs some TLC...lol. The riverbank isn't overly interesting. The river is HUGE though...so much water. We tried to get on a dinner cruise, but it was booked for the evening. The markets in Vietnam are nothing like anywhere else! Most of them are inside (or under shelters) and the stalls are SO close together! Everyone is trying for your attention...in the meantime...all you can think about is covering your pockets and holding on to the camera! About 30 seconds into the market...you just want to get out
! But you can't...you're now stuck! Stuck in a crowd of people, pushing to get through, goods for sale piled to the roof, the temperature increases about 10 degrees...so now, instead of melting outside in 30 degrees, you are now baking inside in 40 degrees....the hawkers are touching you, grabbing your arm..."What you looking for? Want buy shirt?"...as you start to panic, you see an opening...and you go...go straight for the escape...and 10 minutes later, you are outside...vowing to never go in the market again!!...until next time...the next day, when it seems like a good idea again...you feel ready...but 30 seconds in...it's the same thing, all over again! haha. It makes it hard to buy things...lol. I was looking at a shirt...I made the mistake of asking "How Much?"...once you ask, you're in the game...there's no turning back. She states a price....and I'm not all that interested since the shirts here are made to fit 12 year olds...I don't know how any foreigners buys shirts at the markets here...the Vietnamese, for the most part, are so much thinner than us..and smaller. So I asked the forbidden question...next thing I know, she has her hand on my hip, pushing against me, not letting me pass...the isle is only big enough for one person at a time and Jay was on the other side of me...so I tell him to turn around and go that way...since she wasn't going to let me pass without buying the shirt. He turns around and as I go to follow, she grabs me by the arm and pulls me backwards, practically off-balancing me...I've been to a lot of markets in Asia, having lived in Taiwan for two years, and not once have I been scared like I was that day!
! Of course, my instincts kicked in and I lost my polite "smile"....aka smile of toleration as they annoy me with their selling tactics and won't leave me alone....lost the smile and took on more of an angry look. She wouldn't let go...I had to rip her arm off of mine...and we left...fast!...checking our pockets and belongings to make sure they were all there. It's scary when they swarm you and try to grab you.
The majority of the people in Vietnam are super friendly...even at the restaurants. You can go to a coffee shop, order a coffee, and the next thing you know, they are bringing out some snacks for you...or a starter at a restaurant. Oh, this is nice....until you get the bill...haha. They always "give" you things...and then just charge you later. It's a great sales tactic!
On our way for dinner one night, we happened to be carrying our backpack...which is already falling apart (only one month old..lol), so we stopped at a sewing machine that was sitting on the side of the road. A man quickly came over to help us, said he could fix it for $1 US...so we said sure! He gets the thread out...and he's trying...and we're waiting...and it's dark...he can't get the thread through the machine...lol...for about 10 minutes, he was trying so hard. Jay and I began to wonder if it was really his sewing machine, or if he was just some random guy that saw us there so he came running over to make a buck
! lol. The guy starts yelling something at a nearby security guard, who suddenly gets up and runs over to another guy who was loading magazines on his scooter...about 10 feet down the street...We can't figure out what's going on and are debating whether or not we should just walk away...when suddenly, the security guard comes running up with the magazine man's glasses!!! It was so funny...the sewing guy is laughing as he puts on the magazine guys glasses! He couldn't see well enough to thread the machine. Now Jay and I are really wondering if it is his machine! haha. The magazine guy patiently waited (about another 10 minutes) until the sewing guy was done with his glasses. They didn't even know each other! It was hilarious...us, the security guard, and the sewing guy were all laughing at him.
The time to leave Ho Chi Minh has arrived. We would like to stay for a lot longer, but when they limit you to thirty days in a country that offers as much as Vietnam does...you have to keep moving! We were up at 5, at the train station at 6am to catch our 6:30am train to Nha Trang. At 6:30 in the morning, the last thing you want to smell is Durian!....but of course...we just get comfortable and out comes the durian!...definitely better than the smell of Beetelnut in Taiwan! No more than 10 minutes later....the t.v. comes on...cool...we get movies??!!...NOPE...Vietnamese music blaring through the train car! It was so loud that Jay and I practically had to yell at each other to talk. Oh well, we can pretty much sleep through anything now. Just recline the seat, and.....ahhh....hahahaha...Jay's shoulders are too wide to fit between the armrests! He had to sit crooked the whole way...lol. It was an interesting 8 hours...but we made it! A hotel with a window and a view of the ocean!! Even in the rain, the sound of the ocean waves and the view of the beach make me happy....so happy....
A week in Ho Chi Minh City....some may say its too long....we say it's not long enough! What a fascinating place. Each time you leave your hotel room, you see something new....BBQs on the front of bicycles, Bananas driving down the street (so many bananas, you can't even see the driver!), or men balancing a half meter high stack of donuts on his head! Never a dull moment...