a lot of shopping. But also lots of sightseeing. Lai Wan did a great job planning this trip for us, and it was an awesome mix of eating, shopping, and seeing the sights. Our trip got off to an interesting start when one of the bags got left in KL, and a huge crowd was gathered outside the airport. It turns out some big K-Pop star was coming into Saigon that day, and a ton of young kids were gathered to cheer his arrival. We didn’t stay for his arrival…there was shopping to be done. After dropping off our luggage we headed to the large Ben Than Market, for some lunch and shopping. The market was crowded, and a lot of the vendors were really quite pushy. We found the small shops along the side streets had better prices, and more friendly shop owners to bargain with. That evening we got a chance to check out a Vietnamese water puppet show. I spent most of the time trying to figure out how they manage to puppeteer in the water, and how deep the water is (they came out at the end, the water was waist deep). It was a great show, and I thought it was well worth the trip, if you have a chance, check out water puppetry.
The next morning we headed to meet up with some local student who wanted to practice English. They offered to take us out to the Cu Chi tunnels. After a bit of a miscommunication mixup, we met up with Xiu and Ha Loc to head out to the tunnels. We took a 2 hour local bus trip out to the tunnels. The first bus was really nice and well air conditioned. With lovely company we chatted about everything from food to families to types of boats. It was pretty cool to have fun conversations using some writing pads, drawings and google translate.
After lunch we headed into the park, and I found the Cu Chi tunnels tour pretty incredible. I mean it’s a little weird, the war in some ways wasn’t that long ago. But in many ways Vietnam now seems so far removed. But it’s still a little strange. But it’s amazing to think how the people here managed to take their whole lives underground for so many years. There were three levels of tunnels, and we only went down to the second level of tunnels, which was claustrophobic enough for me. We went through three different tunnels. The first was just 5 meters and gave an feel for what it was like in the upper tunnels. The second and third journeys were 10 and 30 meters respectively. They were much tighter, and involved some turning and crawling, which left me very happy get back above ground, and left me with a real appreciation for what the people here had to do to survive.
They gave us cassava to try, and then we got to see people making shoes out of old tires. I was quite impressed with the up cycling, but I wasn’t sure they’d be too comfortable.
The next morning we got an early start with our tour guide Lee out to the Mekong Delta. Xiu joined us as well on our trip, and it was a fantastic day. I highly recommend Lee, we booked him through his Facebook page, Tour Guide In Saigon. He planned a great day. We rode along the Mekong, and visited places to enjoy candy, see food being made, enjoyed local traditional songs, took a sampan ride along the canals, relaxed, and enjoyed a homestay meal. We really enjoyed every stop.
Our last full day we headed to the busy streets of Saigon to see the sights. The architecture is mostly colonial French, including the main post office, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel tower. Or so I thought until I just looked up how to spell his name and found out that the post office was in fact designed by some guy named Alfred Foulhoux. I guess I wrote a lot of lies inside that post office…sorry everybody I wrote postcards to. Either way, the buildings are still quite lovely, and it was a great walking tour before heading out to Chinatown to find lotus seed at the best price by walking though stalls and stalls of dried prawns and salted fish. While that was a blast, and we bought a whole case of coffee as well, we did have to spend a few hours smelling like the dumpster of a Long John Silvers.
We had a blast touring, eating, and shopping our way through Ho Chi Minh City. I don’t have a ton of pictures of our shopping, but we did lots of it. The prices weren’t bad once you got through bargaining, but I’m told Bangkok is better…so we’re planning a little Hari Raya holiday before my trip home in August. We also found a whole street that I suppose you could call the little KL of Saigon or maybe the Saigon kampung. All the restaurants were halal, and the shops took riggit, and the prices were cheaper in riggit than dong?! For some reason all of that really tickled me. By then end of the four days I was bummed to have to leave my cool traveling companions and head back to KL…but on the bright side we were off to Australia next!