Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sights and Sounds of Saigon

Sliding doors between the bath and main room
so I could watch TV while enjoying a soak!
The InterContinental Asian was a wonderful place to call home for a few days. Of course, I loved the spa bathtub! Cruisers need a few luxuries once in a while. Since our bed on the boat is very comfortable, a hotel bed is nothing special. However, lying in bed with down pillows while checking the Internet for the latest news was a real treat.

Then there was a fabulous breakfast buffet in the courtyard below! Now I am loving this vacation and we haven't even made it to the river cruise yet. With the hotel located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City District 1, it was easy to come and go to get out of the 90 degree plus heat for a few hours several times a day.

We spent the first day exploring on our own and checking out the holiday lights at night. And it was nice to see some real television news on CNN and the BBC to see what is happening around the world. But the real fun is the world outside of the hotel. We would meet our guide early on the second day.

We took advantage of watching the traffic at night in the holiday lights. What chaos! I don't know how they all miss each other as they just turn in front of one another and dodge pedestrians. We were not brave enough to cross the street at night; daytime was scary enough.

As it turned out, we were the only ones who signed up for the pre-cruise package. Soooo... We had a guide and a driver all to ourselves for a day of sight seeing. And as it turned out, the same guide, Thinh (or as he called himself: Skinny Thin), was our guide on the ship as well! Lucky us!

One of the hundreds of Buddha figures we saw.
Since we told Thinh that we had enjoyed a meal at Pho Hoa, he decided we should visit another famous pho restaurant. This one is known for its colorful noodles that are made with a special fruit (or was it a vegetable) from the region. It is the only place that makes it and since I lost the photos from this day, I can’t recall the name of the restaurant or the special plant used. Delta Alpha Mike November!
After a lunch with our guide, Thinh, we were off to see the French Colonial architecture of the city, a museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel.
Unfortunately there was a Mass at the Cathedral and we couldn’t walk around inside. Our visit with the guide was too short to join the Mass. We usually like to sit in a pew for a while and have a quiet moment, light candles, etc., but we were on a schedule this time so it didn’t work out that way.
Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon


Central Post Office

Our next stop was the Central Post Office designed by Gustave Eiffel in traditional French Colonia styling. It seems that everyone has their own little market set up outside the post office - and everywhere on the streets! You could buy all kinds of things from individuals sitting on the curb or from their bicycles or motorcycles. They sell goods and foods that they make.

Traditional apricot tree in the Post Office
as a Tete holiday decoration. The yellow   
flower is symbolic of the King.
The yellow apricot flower is the traditional symbol for good luck and health. The yellow color shows respect to the King. While there was a king, he was the only person who was allowed to wear the yellow.

Interior of the post office
Then it was off to the famous Benh Thanh Market. Like many other markets we have seen around the world, it was a smaller version of the bazaars of Istanbul. There was everything available and too much of it. Stall after stall. Since I am not a shopper, I just like to visit to take in the atmosphere and then get out of there quickly. I don’t like haggling over prices and being followed by pushy sales people. A quick walk through was enough for me. Thank you very much! The prices are ridiculously cheap so I should have done some Christmas shopping!

Since it was the New Year holiday, the city was decorated with the traditional apricot blossoms. The streets were lit up at night like Christmas in the USA. And we saw the most beautiful orchids everywhere. The flowering apricot tree is the traditional holiday tree of Vietnam and it is seen everywhere. The larger ones are very expensive yet even the poorest people have one. We saw a number of them being transported on the back of motorcycles just like we throw Christmas trees on top of the car and drive home.
Now you can enjoy a walk through the market with these photos.
Red Dragon Fruit
It is now time for me to pack the bags and head to The Mekong Princess tomorrow. I have enjoyed the lovely bathtub in the InterContinental. I think I will have one on the river cruise as well. A long soak is a real treat for a world cruiser!

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