Published: December 22nd 2011December 22nd 2011
The Reunification Hall
One of the reception rooms with a fine lacquer piece gracing the walls from the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) period
On Monday I went to the Reunification Palace in the morning. In 1975 I was in Matric and did not know much about the War in Vietnam. Perhaps what we were going through in our country was far more important than the war in some far off distant lands that did not really touch our lives. I do remember the pictures of the tanks going through the Palace gates with helicopters leaving from the roof- they were and still are iconic scenes that will forever be shown and relived as they were so dramatic and the end of the Vietnam War. I now had the chance to go inside that building – and its interiors are stylalised formal rooms used for entertaining dignitaries from other countries or for important local occasions. The basement was the Command Centre. Rooms filled with state of the art (for that time) telex machines, radios, maps and telephones. Also, safe rooms for the head of state and the upper echelons’ of armed forces to sleep in. Above the ground from the first floor up are reception halls and rooms one more fantastic than the next and there were 3 floors of them. Two dining rooms both
Salt sour plum juice
Oh I love these refreshing drinks with sour/salty plums but it is sweet too.
laid with 2 tables one depicting western style with knives and forks the other laid out in Asian style with bowls and chopsticks. The top floor was dedicated to pleasure! A full billiards table, baby grand, bar/lounge a movie theatre that seated about 50 and views over the gardens and city. There was also the roof which had direct access to the heli pad and another bar with baby grand and dance floor. Seems like they did a lot of partying in those days. Don’t think much has changed in Sai gon
In the afternoon I went to the Xai Lo Pagoda – a Buddhist temple which was most serene and I had some time to enjoy this space without the outside hecticness that is Sai gon.
My dinner was fantastic. I had found this Vietnamese restaurant that catered for locals where they do BBQ on the table. So cool they bring you your own little fireplace, small bite sized pieces of marinated meat of your choice (mine was beef) it comes with a salad and some rice. I also ordered some morning glory which are delicious greens usually stir fried with garlic
flowers in the garden
this is one of the prettiest flowers from a tree i don't know yet. It has a fruit too that the monks had tied up as they looked to heavy for their stems
and crunchy. Oh and of course a drink my favourite freshly squeezed lime juice with sugar water and ice.
The next morning it was up early and out on a tour to the Mekong Delta. It was a small group of 9. In the Backpacker area there were day tours with 25 people for $15 but that was not for me. I chose the more up-market tour for $35 and it was well worth it. We went by mini bus to the port of Ben Tre with our guide Tommy who was funny and friendly talked about the vret (fresh)fruit we were going to try! We hopped on our own ferry to the islands in the middle of the Mekong River.
On the first Island we were welcomed with the many different types of vret fruit – the only one I had never tried or heard of before was the sapodilla which I have since found out is a native of South America - and a group of musicians who played some local melodies and sang some national songs. Very touristy but delightful as it did not go on for
Xe Loi Pagoda
A lovely cool spiritual place to spend some quiet time.
too long. We then went on to see and taste some honey production, drinks and sweets. They also had a working python! Just like Tembi woo -it is brought out for you to hold and have your pictures taken with it draped all over you. I don’t do snake – not to touch, eat, drink or hold!!! At the next stop there were bottles of liquor with snakes, scorpions and other insects pickled inside – gives men lots of power or so says Tommy but I don’t believe it one little bit. We get to see how coconut candy is made. First they cook the coconut stirring it all the time with a mechanical turner over a very hot fire, then it is pressed, followed by kneading on a table. It is then formed into long strips and wrapped in rice paper. Around long tables in a very sociable way mostly women are wrapping and packing the sweets. I did see one child but he must have been off school for some reason. There were no children around.
A short ride through the canals of the delta in a row boat, a ride on a horse
Boating in the Delta
on our boat through the canal
drawn coach and lunch which seemed to be right in the middle of a palm tree jungle. Fried Elephant ear fish, prawns and little spring rolls with a beer was our lunch. It was then time to return via a very old temple on the mainland called Vinh Trang Pagoda. The front of the temple is embellished with mosaic made from broken pottery. A great way to end a very pleasant day. Met some cool people who hopefully will visit South Africa on one of their next trips!
Yesterday went to the markets to find myself a new suitcase to leave stuff behind in till we come back. We are going to be here for New Year and I think it’s going to be HECTIC by the way the locals are gearing up for Christmas and of course all talk is about TET the real New Year Celebrations at the end of January but hey there seems to be no moratorium on partying in this city!!!
Off to Hoi An today.
There are more photos below