Ho Chi Minh City 3

14 10 2009

Tuesday 13/10/09

The most daunting part of sight-seeing is trying not to look too much like a goggle-eyed tourist – an impossible task when we are! The problem is everyone is trying to catch our eye to sell you a cyclo ride, or a bottle of water, or a shoe shine, or offer a taxi, or sell you a trinket etc. and if you are gazing about, inevitably you do catch someone’s eye and the next thing you know they’re pressing in for the sell – and it’s a bit like feeding a seagull, everyone else in the vicinity joins the feeding frenzy with postcards, drawings, paintings, fruit and so on.  Ben Thanh MarketThe market was the most overwhelming; wanting to buy some tea bags to make a cuppa in our room, I hesitated at a stand selling a million varieties of tea and coffee all with Asian names. Sensing a sale, the owners of the stall, which was about 2 metres square and amid a myriad of other stalls in a busy narrow thoroughfare, clamoured to know what I was after. When the woman in charge and a junior assistant who was probably her daughter, realised they didn’t have what I wanted, they tried to offer a number of alternatives. When I declined and tried to move on I was grabbed by the arm and offered a stool, whisked from nowhere, while junior dashed off with the promise they would have some in a minute. I managed to extricate myself and follow the young lady to see her attempting to source the teabags at another stall. Oh well there’s always a middleman in commerce!

DSCN0053Today we enjoyed fabulous weather. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea with temperatures in the mid 30’s and humidity at about 70%, but once you get used to feeling clammy and hot we quite enjoy it. Of course the occasional sojourn into an air-conditioned shop makes for a pleasant relief for our unacclimatised pallid bodies. Maree’s foot is still very tender so we bandaged it securely and trod with great circumspection managing to cover some considerable distance in our sightseeing today.

When we needed a break taxis provided a good and surprisingly cheap alternative – that is when you don’t get rattled tying to work out the currency. Once yesterday and again today we were spivved by drivers who insisted on another naught on the fare. So we paid something like 340000 Dong instead of 34000 Dong. That is the equivalent of about $20 instead of $2. Yes that’s right – you can get a 10 – 12 minute taxi ride for less that $2 AUD equivalent.  We went out to tea tonight and getting a taxi home we asked him to take us sightseeing through the city to see all the floodlit buildings before taking us home. It must have been about a 45 minute ride and it cost only $6.10 equivalent and that included a tip! Taxi drivers generally do not seem to have very much English at all and so the best way to give instructions for a destination is to write down the address and give it to him. In the case of our accommodation w just hand over the Hotel’s business card. It was a bit disconcerting tonight when we realised the driver must be blind because after staring at the card at arms length he climbed out of the taxi and went to find someone to read it to him.

Roger looking cross because of his ineptitude with chopticks

Roger looking cross because of his ineptitude with chopticks

...to Maree's amusement

...to Maree's amusement

The dinner was fabulous – recommended by Robert and Diana Winter we entered a longish dimly lit passageway before climbing tightly spiralling flights of stairs to a rooftop restaurant. We would never have ventured there without a local recommendation but what a delight. We could have ordered such things as wild boar or frogs but didn’t. We did order mouth watering morsels of beef and cheese with lemongrass and beef with five spice with something or other, which we then cooked on a miniature barbecue grill in the centre of our table. The only downside is that we felt a bit like we were wearing barbecue flavoured cloths after.

Reunification palace

Reunification palace

Maree stiring the pot in the Palace kitchen

Maree stiring the pot in the Palace kitchen

The other highlight of the day was a guided tour of the Reunification Palace. Built in 1966 to serve as South Vietnam’s Presidential palace, this is where the communist tanks crashed through the gate on the 30th April 1975, the day Saigon surrendered. The building is in time warp, having been left just as it looked on the momentous day.

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