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Published: March 9th 2014
A day in the city, exploring, as next two days are reserved for trips out and about.
We had intended first of all to visit the Reunification Palace which is in the park a little way up from the hotel. A check of the guide book showed it was closed 11am to 1pm and our timing was out so we decided to leave it for another day. A little odd when we headed out in that direction, right along the park where the map showed it to be, we couldn’t see it. The invisible palace.
Our first stop was the Cathedral, very French in design of course as it was built during the French colonial period and the same for the magnificent Post Office building, built and decorated in an altogether grand style. A popular tourist spot. We found that some of the original phone boxes now contained ATMs, which was handy. We’ve not been spending much money as everything is so cheap, a good meal with drinks is generally well under £20 and taxis only just over £1 but we’re using cash rather than credit card as not always happy about paying by card and having to
let the card out of sight.
Guesstimating how much cash we need is a little tricky. Don’t want to exchange too much as we can’t change it back when we leave as the Vietnamese Dong (VND) is only valid in Vietnam.
We walked down Nguyen Hue Street heading in the direction of the river. This is the Oxford Street of Saigon, filled with upmarket shops and a high-class mall. We also found some nice gift shops and bought a few more bits and pieces. Our cases are getting fuller and fuller.
We first of all found our way to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum for a bit of culture. This has interesting exhibits relating to Vietnamese history culminating, as ever, in the more recent French colonial occupation, the war with America and the subsequent triumphant unification of South and North Vietnam as a Communist state under Ho Chi Minh.
Outside, behind the museum, we found a nice little shady café for a cooling drink then walked to the Opera house which is in a lovely square enclosed by the famous Rex and Caravelle, Majestic hotels. Very, very impressed with this fantastic city which
is very much alive and 21st century, not just with its 10 million inhabitants and 6.5 million scooters but with very friendly people and impressive buildings, both old and ultra modern. We managed to cross all roads without getting run over by scooter mainly using the shut-eye technique and allowing the scooters to weave round behind us.
Next to the Saigon river but not much to see here, though we discovered later than the river banks further along are being very nicely developed. We had a look at possible boat trips at the boat stations but decided to use the coach options from the hotel.
By this point our aching feet had had enough so we hailed a taxi to take us back to the hotel in time for a cooling swim in the rooftop, 12th floor, pool.
We’d spotted a restaurant Ciao as we were exploring so took another taxi there and had a good meal in a lovely atmosphere. We discovered that this is a different city at night. Streets still full of scooters but everywhere colourfully lit and vibrant. We are really
enjoying it and the ease of getting around, just hop into a cheap taxi and go makes it even better.
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