Saigon Sightseeing

Trip Start May 04, 2004
Trip End May 20, 2004

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Friday, May 7, 2004

Today I woke up about six feeling sick and we were going to go to a doctor after dinner but (thankfully) I got to feeling better. We did some laundry in the hotel tub this morning before heading out to find two motorbiek taxis (xe om) to take us to the Emperor Jade Pagoda. We tried to haggle, but their price seemed fixed. Riding the xe om was fun! It took me a couple minutes to get used to not wearing a helmet and get my balance, but they didn't go too terribly fast (up to 55 km/hr) or drive dangerously at all. We didn't stay too long at the pagoda, it was too busy, not reflective, and not what we had been hoping to find. Felt kind of like a drive-thru temple, rush in, burn your incense, and leave. Instead, we hired more xe oms to take up to the Ben Than market. The market was a mixture of local and touristy stuff. We bought a few gifts for folks back home and marveled at entire stalls selling only conical hats.

On the walk back to the hotel we stopped at the Vietnamese equivalent of McDonalds, the Lotteria for a quick lunch. In the afternoon, we checked out the largest Chinatown in the world with another interesting market and headed back to the hotel for a swim. Dinner at a nice Vietnamese restaurant consisted of a pork-stir fry dish after which we explored a Vietnamese mall. Shiny, white marbelesque floors, escalators, flashy electronics that would cost the average local over a year's pay. It was a happening place at night, like any western mall and we wandered for a bit before heading for an open-air ice cream joint. We enjoyed our slightly over priced sundaes while watching Saigon come alive for Friday night. Music was playing and expensive Japanese scooters sped next to cheap Chinese knock-offs (the scooter is a definite status symbol here) as the young and chic began their celebration of the weekend.
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