Day 75: Scooter Dodging

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Where I stayed
Ngoc Thao Guesthouse

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Renewed and refreshed, we spent most of Monday on an ambitious walk around most of the central city. We got noodle bowl breakfast at the Pho 2000 restaurant beside Ben Thanh market, an apparent hangout of President Bill Clinton during his trip here. Reading this surprised me as the restaurant was by no means fancy or packed, just four plain white walls, big windows, and a row of fast food restaurant style booths. The first sightseeing stop of the day was fifteen minutes down the road, a monstrosity of 60's architecture known as the Reunification Palace, former headquarters of the South Vietnamese government. Wandering through its basement floor, a single hallway with secret radio and war rooms branching off from side to side was fascinating, as was the building's historical importance, but overall we left slightly underwhelmed. The roof however made for a great motorcycle-watching vantage point! Speaking of which, here's a YouTube vid that'll give you a good idea of what I mean when I say "motorcycle stampedes." The traffic in the video is moving much slower than what we saw, fyi:

The War Remnants Museum followed, a museum dedicated to memorializing atrocities committed by the South Vietnamese Army and US troops. There was of course no mention of the equal or worse atrocities committed by the NVA or Vietcong, but what the exhibits had to say about us probably wasn't too far off the mark. It was an interesting sample of the other side's point of view, if biased in the extreme. The museum's most surreal feature was probably the captured American tanks, helicopters, bombs, etc sitting out front, all stripped of their camouflage and repainted Evil Black(tm.) We spent about an hour circling the exhibits, soaking in the photos of deformed Agent Orange babies and the like, including vials of deformed fetuses, then left and scrapped any future tragedy-related sights from the rest of the trip's hit list. We'd both had our fill of depression for the month.

Next up, if I remember right, was a small elevated plaza in the middle of a moped filled hypnotic roundabout. Here we sat for a good amount of time people watching, chatting and the like. Particularly fun was following a specific bike with one's eyes, watching where it went and how it maneuvered itself there. This roundabout became known as "Our traffic circle!" and would be revisited twice or thrice in the future before our time in HCMC was up. There were some neat looking coffee houses surrounding this area, but today's dinner would be had elsewhere. As I don't have my bootleg photocopied Vietnam LP guidebook beside me, any attempt to remember this restaurant's unpronounceable name will be futile, but this was one *good* restaurant and was a top recommendation in every guide/site we consulted. I went the cheap route and ordered some fried spring rolls, and my were those some good spring rolls. They were simultaneously crispy without being greasy, and had a thin enough wrapping that said wrapping melted in your mouth. Dessert consisted of a simple mug of Vietnamese coffee that rivaled Java's for its strength and delish factor. A pretty cool rainbow appeared in the sunset too. It was pretty cool.

Nighttime took us back to the more upperclass area we explored the first night, where uhh...

My memory (and our HCMC itinerary) becomes too blurred at this point to continue day-by-day. Jeff kept a little scribble diary that might be able to help me out, but I'm on a graveyard shift in the library at the moment and might never finish this if I wait even longer to write it. So, the next post will be a more general rundown of Saigon highlights, possibly badly out of order but whatevers. The rest of the blog however will indeed be day by day.
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maiatt on

Very nice information. You can also find at

cdnski12 on

Hanoi has vastly more scooters than Saigon. More cars in Saigon. I counted every 6th car was anewish Mercedes and about every 20th car was a compact Bentley. The Bentley's are built in both China & Malaysia. I saw far more Bentleys per capita in Vietnam, than I ever saw in China or Malaysia

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