Published: June 17th 2012June 17th 2012
Although we did aim for a sleep-in today it appeared that when we woke at 7:15am that it wasn't going to happen.
The light (not the sun as it was overcast) was beaming through the slight gap in the curtain and before we knew it we were fully awake and trying to decide what to do for the day. This lasted a while before we decided the get changed and head up to the eighth floor for our included breakfast.
On the cards was toast with ham and cheese, some fried chicken, some fried potatoes thing, fresh fruit, and a mini muffin. It was a decent meal and you could go back for as much as you could handle. We sat there for a bit before heading back to our room to decide exactly what we wanted from the day; first stop: Ben Thanh Market.
Ben Thanh market is a large marketplace in district 1. The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and one of the symbols of Ho Chi Minh City. It's popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs, as well as local cuisine. We walked around inside for a bit, not believing some of the things we were seeing. For example, pieces of meat just sitting on benchtops and live crabs and other seafood just on trays. We had plenty of people ask us if we wanted to buy their products but politely declined and continued on our way.
We left the market and made our way in search of Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, each reaching a height of 58metres. It's different to the one in Paris but also very similar. Before venturing over to the Basilica we stopped in for a drink at the Coffee Bean and Tea House. Then made our way over to take some photos. While we were in front of it when some Uni students from Ho Chi Minh University came and asked Jess some questions about the Internet for an assignment; how can one deny them information. We didn't go into the Basilica but moved on to Diamond Plaza.
We got a bit distracted on the way though by a big roundabout; how these people don't write each other off is beyond me. In the words of someone from Grease "the rules are, there are no rules". It's basically ballsy up pand make your way through.
After taking some photos of funny vehicles and also of a bride and her groom we made our way into Diamond Plaza. It's basically 7 or 8 levels of department store; Much like a Myer or David Jones. We walked around for a bit before deciding to not spend money and instead to make our way down to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden.
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is ranked eighth among the oldest zoos in the world, up to now it's 133 years old. After 130 years of construction it became the biggest biological garden in the country. It's home to 590 animals of 125 species, 1830 trees and plants of 260 valuable species, some of which are over 100 years old.
Entrance to the park was a bank breaker; 12,000 VD, or if you like, about 60cents! We walked around the park for a few hours photographing all the animals including the elephants, giraffes, tigers, lions, apes, reptiles and various other animals. One main difference we noticed was how close you could get to the animals. The elephants were within feeding distance, and the tigers we're only behind glass. There were boardwalks that crossed the deer enclosures and the crocodile enclosures.
After a few hours we decided it was time to leave and decided to head toward the river to get some photos, it was at this point at 2:15pm that the sky opened up and it started pouring with rain. We ran for cover in the entrance of a day spa and after a few minutes it stopped so we walked a bit further up the road before it began again and we took cover again, this time in a supermarket. We bought a bottle of water, an ice cream and some Australian Cadbury chocolate before we decided it was time to catch a cab as we couldn't walk the 2.5kms back to the hotel in that. It was funny to see though as soon as it started, all of a sudden the endless number of scooter drivers all had ponchos on.
We got back to the hotel where we rested for a bit before deciding to make our way north to Xa Loi Pergoda.
The Xa Loi Pagoda is the largest pagoda in HCMC. It was built in 1956 and was the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam. We didn't go in or anything as we then decided to walk back to the hotel to see if we could book in to a water puppet show.
We got back to the hotel about 5:15pm so booked in with the girl from hotel reception for the 6:30pm show. This gave us time to have quick showers before setting off on the 15minute walk to find the place.
We got our tickets and entered the Golden Dragon Theatre not knowing what to expect. What we got was 50minutes of music and wooden puppets dancing on water. We didn't really understand it but it didn't matter, it's something that everyone should do once.
We walked back the hotel before we realised we'd not had lunch or dinner so made our way to a little place on the corner called Cafe Eleven.
Their menu was limited as it was a bit later so we got spaghetti, spring rolls, garlic bread and drinks. A huge tasty meal and it cost us about $5 each.
After this we headed back to the hotel completely knackered and ready for bed.