Posted by Amanda
Both Noah and I were in funks this morning that were just feeding off of each other. Luckily, Ho Chi Minh City worked some magic to lift the mood.
From the beginning, I've been thinking we're too SAS programmed for Vietnam. Since my mother decided not to come visit us here, we added a few things here then added a few things there. The next thing we know, we're totally booked up. Today was the city orientation. Well, first we had to give everyone landing cards after the Vietnamese officials processed them. Our orientation took us into HCMC. As usual our ship is docked in a sketchy and distant area.
Our first stop was the temple to the sea goddess. It had those cool incense coils hanging from the ceiling. I like them but they do create a mess when the ash falls on you. In the meantime, our bus was being repaired as the AC wasn't working. The lack of AC made the ride awful because, guess what, Vietnam is hot.
We went a bit further to lunch at a fancy restaurant. I didn't think it was that great, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. I've become so picky about meat now that I should just go vegetarian in Asia. I also want everything spicier than the average tour group member.
From lunch we went to City Hall. This lovely building in the French colonial style is most noted for its close proximity to a selection of ATMs. We took a few photos but spent most of the time getting money.
Our next stop was the Reunification Palace. This was actually very interesting as we got to go inside and walk around while our guide gave us some information. I learned more about the Vietnam War in that 30 minutes than I probably ever did in school. It helped that a history teacher was on the trip with us to fill in anything we missed when our guide's accent was a bit too heavy. Oh, and Karen, you should absolutely apply to work as a profession with SAS.
At some point we also went to Notre Dame Catherdral. This is known for its close proximity to a post office that sells stamps. We took a few photos then bought stamps. Curiously, the post office area had a big bowl of glue with a brush available for sealing envelopes.
Our last stop on the tour was the history museum for a water puppet show. This was pretty cool as the puppeteers are in the water to their upper torso but behind a curtain. They have puppets on long poles that they make swim and dance in the water. The show was short which was good because we were all tired from the heat. We learned that originally the shows were 15 minutes long because when they did them in the river, they would have to tread water while performing.
We had the bus drop us off at Ben Thanh Market for some shopping while it went back to the ship. This is when the day got good for me. Not so much for the shopping as we didn't really buy anything (after all, they don't have sarees here), but more for the chance to walk around the city and see some things on our own. Noah was also feeling a bit worn down by the students talking while our guide was talking so I imagine he was glad to be on our own. One of the lifelong learners, Linda, joined us. We were all thirsty so we stopped at a small stand. The owner was smacking away roaches left and right. One got on Noah's shoe, but that was nothing compared to when one flew up on his leg, crawled up his shirt and came out his collar. I think it was the grossest thing I've ever seen. He was very cool about it--more so than when we played with the monkeys. I would have screamed and danced around in disgust.
Linda joined up with some other adults while we wandered around some more. Some students recommended a place to get a suit made for Noah so we went off in search of that. Noah so rarely wants anything of significance so I was glad to do this. For $80 he'll have a dark grey pinstripe suit by Monday.
We checked out some stores, hit the night market, and found a place for a very cheap dinner--about $3 for a beer, a soda, two entrees, and spring rolls. On our way back to the shuttle bus to the ship we hit a bootleg DVD store in hopes of finding the 4th season of Lost. We did find a lot of current tv shows, but only purchased one as Noah is writing a spec for Chuck and needed it for research.
A nice evening in HCMC as we survived crossing the streets, enjoyed the food, found the hawkers not too in your face, and relaxed in the slightly cooler night air. Oh, when the hawkers call out to you, you do notice the French influence. In India they said, "Madame, madame, madame" like the head of a wh0re house. In Vietnam they said, "Madame, madame, madame" as if we were in France. Back to the ship for an early morning departure to Hanoi and the Ma Chau Village.