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Published: September 26th 2016
Ho Chi Minh City Post Office
Designed by Gustave Eiffel and very grand inside and out.
Xin chao! Hi.
I've got way behind here so a quick catch-up.
I booked a Beer, bike and Pho cycle tour with Le Vietnam Bicycle Tours. Turned out I was the only one on the tour that day with Tung, my guide, who runs the tours from his house and cafe. He biked into the city for 13k's on his bike holding the other one next to him to arrive at my hotel at 8 o'clock. I wasn't too concerned about the traffic madness having walked through it over the previous day so once we had started pedalling it was pretty easy to figure out how to weave one's way in and out and across the constant stream of motor-scooters and other vehicles. Tung was an excellent guide. He stopped many times to talk about the history of various spots, stopped for coffee at his favourite cafe, stopped for beer and Pho at a traditional Pho hole in the wall eatery. The breeze from the biking helped keep some of the heat away and the 4 hours went by quickly. We ended up biking out of town to his place where I met his wife, Jolie, who helps run
the business and also has a little cafe outside their ground floor apartment. After a cold drink and some fruit, Tung drove me back to my hotel where I stupidly left my cellphone in his car. An hour later he delivered it back to me! A great guy and I recommend his tour 100%.
Meanwhile Lyn was working. She had a few hours off in the afternoon then had a function between 6.00 and 9.00pm for Vietnamese alumni and the Kiwi hosts from New Zealand.
Next day was our last before heading for Hanoi. Lyn was off to the Educational Fair by 8.15am. My goal was the Reunification Palace. I wandered down to the Saigon River first and followed it for a while. There wasn't much activity. Dead fish, one sampan type boat, brown water and a lot of men coming up to me offering the pillion seat of their motor scooters and a tour around the city. I made my excuses and carried on. Hot as! I got myself a bit bamboozled once I headed back into the maze of city alleys and narrow streets so it took me longer than it should have to find the
Actually, in the canal which flows into the river about a 100 metres to the left
Palace - it was shut! Closed from 11.00am to 1.00pm. I stood outside and took pictures. The images of the US helicopters on top of the building, evacuating personnel in 1975, were still vivid in my head as I looked at the building.
On the way back through the streets to the hotel I detoured through back alleys to get some idea of what life was like for those not in the glitzy department store districts. Rubbish, dirt, puddles, broken pavement; people scratching a living by selling a few cheap goods, or offering their services, mainly, it seemed as motor scooter repairmen, or motor scooter parking attendants or as motor scooter drivers for hire as I got many more offers to take me somewhere on the pillion seat.
Back at the hotel Lyn's Education Fair was going great guns. Crowds of students in a very large ballroom asking all sorts of perceptive questions. She was pleased with the turn out and the interest.
So then it was on to Tan Son Nhat airport where the crowds were something else and the organisation of the crowds was also something else. Not very much. It took a long time
to check in and a longer time to go through security (3 long lines at each x-ray station merging into 1) so, although we had thought we'd have plenty of time, the flight was almost due to go by the time we got through formalities. Travel tip - allow more time than you expect, especially on a weekend in Saigon. (The locals use Saigon and HCM interchangeably a lot of the time but I've no idea if it's officially frowned on.)
Ho Chi Minh City was exciting. Its quite westernised in the central area where we were staying. Easy to get around and it doesn't take long to get into areas that are less like we see at home. I had no feeling that I was in a state-run, centrally planned economy even though much of the economy is still state-controlled. I read in one of the local English language newspapers that Vietnam is considered one of the tiger economies, open for investment and .attracting it by the bushel. Not written by a Vietnamese either. And so, to Hanoi.
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