Ho Chi Minh City (or is it Saigon???) is less than an hour away by bus - close enough even for a day trip. From TDM the 616 bus takes you right into the centre. Sadly for us, one never appeared and we took a small minibus instead which took us to the outskirts of the city. We then had a short taxi ride in.
Our first stop was not cultural! The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
was a pit stop for coffee. Vietnamese coffee is nice enough, and we are acquiring the taste for their iced coffee, but a good strong Americano really hits the spot occasionally!! It's something we missed a lot in Tunisia and living out in Binh Duong we won't be able to get our caffeine fix this way unless we venture into the big city! We also called in to one of the shopping centres which was quite something after Tunisia too.
As usual we did a lot of walking. We saw the Reunification Palace and look forward to going inside to learn more about Vietnamese history. Nearby we saw the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Several weddings were going on and their photoshoots must be littered with errant tourists!
Just over the road was the ornate and grand Post Office where a portrait of Uncle Ho is proudly on display. It is lovely inside and, as well as all your postal needs, you can buy touristy souvenirs! We were interviewed by a couple of local students who wanted to know our thoughts on water puppetry. Well, we don't know anything about it but it is certainly something we want to see in action some time.
Next up on our walking tour was the commercial centre with its posh hotels, City Hall and, of course, a statue of Ho Chi Minh. There was a wild a mix of people in the centre - Vietnamese, backpackers, and a very dapper gentleman who strolled by! We soon found ourselves by the River Saigon. From Me Linh square (roundabout actually!) we got a great view of the iconic Bitexco Tower. Hopefully next time we are in town we'll get the chance to go up the tower to see the 360 degree views of Saigon.
Our favourite shop, and one that we specifically sought out, was Saigon Kitsch
where there are loads of old propoganda posters. We'll be calling in to make
a purchase next time! We had a fabulous lunch at Dragon Steak
and we had to stay for an extra beer (!) because of the torrential rain outside! When it dried up we had a walk over to Ben Tham market and then on to the backpackers area for a look around - it's always good to know where these areas are if you want a cheap hostel or a book exchange. There, someone tried to steal Trish's necklace which she had forgotten to take off before we left. Luckily there was no damage but a young couple on a motorbike chastised Russ for not hitting the would-be thief!!!!
A taxi then took us to Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown. We had a good look around a Chinese temple and a Christian church which provided quite a contrast. then we walked around the market area and, by everyone's reaction, we feel they don't see many foreigners there!!
It was a grand day out, and next time, we'll stay for the night! A taxi back to TDM was about $30 which may sound expensive, but it is about 30km so we were happy.
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