Ho Chi Minh City Day 2

Wed, 28 May 2008 04:20:53 +0000

Ho Chi Minh City Day 1 Index Ho Chi Minh City Day 3

As my major goal for today, I decided to go to the history museum up at the north end of town. Yesterday afternoon I got thoroughly pissed off by all the moto drivers constantly trying to get my attention, and I resolved to deny them the fare this time. I got a proper taxi instead. I had carefully written down the name of the museum in Vietnamese, including all the complex diacritical marks. I handed him the piece of paper, and he proceeded to drive me directly to the war remnants museum instead. It's a completely different place, albeit in a similar direction. I concluded that I must have transcribed the wrong museum by mistake, and decided that I may as well visit this one. It's only later that I discovered that no, I had asked for the right place after all. Very annoying.

So I ended up going to the war remnants museum. This is basically one big propaganda compound explaining precisely how evil the Americans are, with the aid of the most gruesome photographs the Vietnamese could lay their hands on. Not really my thing, I'm afraid. I'm aware of how nasty war can be, and in fact I didn't see anything that compares with the stories currently coming out of Iraq and Sudan. I also thought that the deformed babies in formaldehyde, showing the horrors of agent orange, were more than a touch unnecessary. I didn't bother photographing anything inside the museum, so here's an inoffensive tank instead.

I may not have been at the museum I had intended, but there were some things to do in the neighbourhood. I had a look at Notre Dame cathedral, just to see if it was interesting. The answer, not really, it's just a big empty cathedral-shaped brick building. I also visited the post office so I could send a postcard. The post office turns out to be rather more cathedral-like than the cathedral, with a giant portrait of Ho Chi Minh hanging up inside. And no queue, at least to buy stamps, which is a welcome change.

I had lunch at a restaurant chain with the execrable name "Wrap and Roll". (Tagline: "it's only wrap and roll but I like it". Bleh.) I had rice paper rolls for appetiser, seafood rice for main and sweetened black rice for dessert, so a full meal there. The seafood rice was absolutely delicious: I don't know how they did the rice, but it was kinda crispy fried, giving a wonderful crunchy texture to it. Not an awful lot of food for my money though.

I have really worn out some of my t-shirts, and Vietnam is where they're made in the first place, so it seemed like a good idea to go to the market to find some replacements. Of course, that means haggling, and I'm not very good at that. I also had no idea how much was a reasonable price - rule 1 of haggling is to have a price in mind. I ended up paying 80000 dong, about three or four euros, for a grey long-sleeve with a rather nice weave to it. This was about half the original asking price, but I wasn't very happy. I'm sure I could get similar deals in Australia if I was prepared to look for them. Also, back at the hotel room it turned out to have sleeves that are probably just slightly too short: especially once it's been through the wash a couple of times.

I went back to the market to see if I could do any better the second time around. I didn't buy anything, but did get consistent offers of plain white t-shirts for 30000 dong. So I might have got a cheaper price for the grey long sleeve, but not much. Since this market is very central and close to the hotel area, I think there's just too many tourists there to make it a good place to shop. Pity, since I really do need some more t-shirts. I might have another go tomorrow.

For dinner I finally decided that I'm healthy enough to get back on the street food, so I got a baguette from a street vendor. For about 40 cents, it's really good value, packed with meat and veges and that very tasty pate they use. Not really a full meal though, so I followed up with carrot cake and coffee from a cafe. This turns out to be a kind of charity cafe, with profits going to support various local causes. I'm pretty much just there for the coffee, but as long as the prices and service are comparable with the competition, which they are, then I'm happy to keep coming back.

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