Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hồ Chí Minh City (Sài Gòn)

Saturday morning and again we are up early to catch a flight on Vietnam Airlines, this time from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City. At least this time we know that the weather is clear, so we have no real worries. We get to the airport early so that we can clear up some issues with Vietnam Airlines over the cancelled tickets (I'll let Tina explain that whole ball of fun to you sometime) and then spend our time relaxing with a cup of coffee as we wait for the plane to board. This time the flight is uneventful and we arrive in Saigon and are whisked to the hotel.

Ho Chi Minh, Saigon? There still seems to be a lot of confusion as to what exactly the city name is, as apparently the south Vietnamese didn't really take to kindly to the north renaming the city after the war so they just still refer to if as Saigon in everything they do. Whatever you call it, it is a bustling, crowded, city teeming with people and filled with wonderful sights.

The old areas are filled with beautiful French architecture, such as the city hall and the post office. We only had one night here so we wandered mostly in this area of the city.

We stopped for lunch at a small cafe just past the city hall, and decided to treat ourselves to a nice French dinner at one of the places highly recommended in our guide book. We called and we are lucky that we can still get a reservation for 20:00 that evening.

From there we visited the post office and then took a tour of the War Museum. The museum is interesting, filled with propaganda and does paint the Americans in a bit of a negative light but still worth it to see. Even the small war museum in Hoi An had some albums left behind with the note "The poison of depraved and reactionary culture of US."

From there to the Rex Hotel, where the Americans used to give their daily war briefings. They have a great rooftop deck and we sat up there to have a drink, admire the view of the city, and watch the sun set.

From there we started to walk over to the Saigon river, but got caught up in all the little shops and soon had to head over to dinner. We ended up spending a lot of time looking at old watches, not the nice fakes that you get up in Hanoi, but old watches that they find and spend time putting back together and getting running. Some of them are real nice, but here for some reason they are really hard to talk down in price. Eventually we cave in and Tina and I buy some watches and head to dinner.

Ah, nice French food, steaks, wine, cheese plates, and a nice restaurant. Once we get the wine and order food I pull out a watch and set to set the time. We had looked at various watches and made sure that they all worked, but suddenly the one I bought won't let the minute hand sweep past the hour hand. Tina realizes that this is going to eat at me all night, and that the shop will most likely be closed when dinner is over, so she sends me back to get it replaced and tells the waiters that they will need to hold the meal for a bit. I head back to the watch shop, he looks at it and quickly replaces it with another one that we verify is working. I set it to the correct time and head back for dinner, getting there just as Tina is sending my steak back to keep warm. Another few minutes go by and I notice that this new watches minute hand hasn't moved, so I quickly eat and excuse myself to run back to the shop. I get there just as he's closing up, get another watch, wait a few minutes to ensure that everything works, and have him change the band on the watch to a better one. He was really friendly about all of it, and I'm glad that I was able to get that all straightened out. When I get back Tina is half way through our cheese plate dessert.

Yes, our nicest meal of the trip and I miss most of it running around Saigon. What fun.

After dinner we went to a nice jazz club, and it was really nice to listen to real jazz again. An perfect way to finish our last night in Vietnam, well other then the missing most of dinner part...

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