Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vietnam - Day 2 (Ho Chi Minh City takes her best shot)

Day two we were scheduled to have a Ho Chi Minh City tour with Samuel. Yes, we were shown around the capital of Vietnam by a Taiwanese man, one who had lived there and done business for ten years and still hadn't learned a lick of Vietnamese.
This is the view from our hotel room.
This is one of my very favorite pictures - the Asian Food Pyramid. My very favorite fact is that it was ONLY posted in English - in the hotel workout room. Apparently they think English speakers need some diet tips? Also notice red meat is monthly, at the very tip of the pyramid. So interesting...Personally, I found the fish to be the tastiest thing in the country, if I lived there, I would easily eat fresh fish every day. Yum.

We left our hotel at 10:30 and went to a travel agent to schedule a bike tour of the Mekong Delta. They recommended a $25 a night B&B type place next door, so we checked it out. It was immaculate & perfect. For $25 we got a huge room, air conditioning, quiet, cable and TWO free breakfasts. We LOVED it. So much better than the $130/night hotel. They even did all of our laundry for just $4.

Finally we were off to see an old church and post office. Very nice. Then we walked up to Reunification Palace, but it was closed for lunch. Seemed like the thing to do was go ahead and eat lunch, so we headed to Pho 2000, quite famous because of its previous clientele as seen below:

There were pictures of Bill & Chels everywhere and guess who got to sit at the VERY SAME TABLE that they ate at? That's right, we snagged it. It even had a fancy maroon tablecloth, just so you knew how special it was. But seriously, I am very disappointed neither of them got beef pho. Who goes to pho in Vietnam and gets the veggie & chicken versions? Suffice to say, I ordered the beef pho. Yum!! Unfortunately, I wasn't super hungry and couldn't even finish it.

After lunch, we headed back to the palace. It was the seat of South Vietnam government during the war and when the North won, they broke down the gates with a tank and renamed it "reunification palace"
We had an hour guided tour that was mildly interesting. Let's just say that when Samuel told me he'd taken the tour over fifty times with guests, I shuddered in horror.

The South orchestrated much of the war in the bunkers below the palace. Dad, this picture's for you. My favorite were the old maps and the list of soldiers from each country. USA clocked in about 500,000 soldiers while Canada sent...two. I think New Zealand sent nine. Awesome.

After the palace, we took a walk to the People's Committee building and that is where disaster struck. Actually, we were crossing the street right in front of the Opera house. You have to understand that every single time you cross the street, it felt like you were risking your life. Scooters and cars zip around everywhere and sometimes all you do is walk slow and trust no one is going to hit you. For the record, I think it was scarier than Egypt - in Egypt the traffic is very similar, but its all big cars. The little scooters zipping around all over leaves you super edgy - even if it looks clear, you never know when one will appear out of no where.

Anyways, so we cross the street - a fairly tame crossing actually, because there was actually a stop light. Just as we reach the curb, a scooter darts in front of us. Kelley, Kyle and I immediately stepped back, scared it was going to run it over. (for the record kyle claims he immediately knew what was about to happen. I just thought it was going to hit us) Kevin was holding his $1800 camera by its body. The lady on the back of the scooter reaches down, grabs the strap and they are off before anyone really realized what was happening. Kevin chased them but in flip flops, he had no chance.

It was so lame, especially because kyle and kevin both thought they could have grabbed them if they'd just reacted a split second sooner. Kevin was so mad. We all were. The worst part was that every single one of us - except kevin - had read about this happening and were being super careful. Apparently he didn't even know it was a possibility.

We sat down and I immediately felt sick. Sort of the "just before a sports game" queasy butterflies, but maybe something more. My heart was racing, I was sweating and I just felt like going home - pretty standard panic attack really. Kelley was doing the exact same thing. (something about our illusion of safety being shattered, it suddenly felt like everything was very dangerous) I finally decided I needed to go to the hotel instead of to our scheduled foot massage. I was so bummed but kept feeling awful and was worried I was going to vomit.

Finally, back at the hotel, I went ahead and took an anti-bacterial, because I felt so sick. Within an hour I was totally fine - but by that time everyone had already left to go to dinner with Samuel. My stomach was still pretty queasy until the next day, but I had no more problems.

Around 10pm that night, music started playing. Not super loud...but you could tell it was live and definitely hear it. It kept going....and going....all night long. Turns out it was a Buddhist funeral procession and they played until 7am the next morning. serious. Thankfully I can sleep through about anything, but some in our group weren't so lucky.

1 comment:

Misha Leigh. said...

Always glad to see the kiwis represent. And I can't even imagine scarier traffic than Cairo. That says a lot. So sad.