Highlights since the last blog:
15, 16 Dec - Two nights at the Riverside suite at Happy Family Guesthouse went pretty well. The view over the river day and night was interesting, although the river traffic at night was constant to the small hours and made sleeping a little difficult. Had a relaxing time around the resort, including swimming in the pool and sleeping! Food was good, including grilled snapper (over the fire in the garden) and pancake. We talked a few times with Cao and Nham, very friendly although their English was a bit challenged at times. We went to the local fish farm next door, by bicycle. The one further downstream was where we went first, but they were not keen on us having a look straight after feeding....something about the smell. So we went back to the neighbouring farm, which Dong originally thought would not welcome us. Had fun balancing across narrow planks to get out to the netted ponds.
17 Dec - caught bus back to HCMC without any problems. Nham took C by motorbike to the bus stop. We gave her and Cao a good tip. Taxi to our Airbnb apartment - penthouse with a view - yes quite a contrast from the accommodation to date. Duc met us at the entrance and we had a chat before heading over to Viet Thanh Silk for C's fitting and my final check on my suit. C's dress colour was a little darker than she would have preferred, but all good after some adjustments to her dress. They agreed to drop both over to the apartment the next morning. We then took Duc's recommendation and went to Cuc Gach Quan for dinner. Very nice traditionally cooked Vietnamese food....only French wine served! Apparently Brad and Angelina were impressed by this restaurant, and so were we. To complete a full day, we decided to go to the SaxnJazz club to finish with, given our failed earlier attempted (not pacing ourselves well enough). Great live music, including interludes with both a male and female singer. We ended up staying to the end and finally got back to the apartment well after midnight - through very contrasting quiet streets.
18 Dec - late start after late night and then did the Sophie's Art Tour in the afternoon with Stu as the guide. Accompanied by Joanna from UK and Frederica (?). Very interesting tour - great insights into Vietnamese history through art. We had dinner at Gao - our meeting place for the tour, followed by a not so impressive coffees at Latino down the road.
19 Dec - Early start to the airport and good we did allow lots of time as the queue for security and immigration was long, long, long. We arrived at the airport 2hrs 20 mins before flight and got to our gate just before we were called to board. Then we were off on our next leg of our holiday - Philippines. Raining when we landed - only just broke through clouds before touching down! The rain meant that the taxi situation was bedlam. Long queue for the meter taxis, no coupon taxis. So it was a choice of waiting for a long time for a meter taxi or accept an expensive car transfer - 1400 pesos. Decided on the latter to just get out of there and to the hotel ASAP. Traffic was also horrendous, so still took us a fair time to get to our hotel near the northern end of Rojas Boulevard - Hotel Miramar. Hotel was a little daggy, but not bad - Artdeco from the twenties. We went for a short walk - rainy and dark early. Ended up having a drink at the H2O Hotel near the marine park. Then met up with Sterling, Saira and James at the Robinson shopping mall for dinner - pretty nice Italian - bottle of Italian red included.
20 Dec - met up with Sterling at Mall of Asia for some shopping for Xmas - sunglasses for Saira's dad. Also Chowking for lunch! In the afternoon we decided to take the "walk this way" tour in Intramuros. Great tour with lots of insights into Filipino history through theatrical performance by tour guide Carlos. Had dinner at local Chinese restaurant - Emerald Garden.
21 Dec - more shopping, this time at Makati Greenbelt, after I walked around Intramuros in the morning taking lots of photos. Got a present for Saira's mum and presents wrapped - the most expensively wrapped presents I've ever done! That night we went to the Sky Deck on top of the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros. A bit of a glitch to start the night - probably not a good choice to go by trike taxi when a normal taxi was a bit hard to locate. Seemed to be a convoluted way to get there and brought home how easy it would be to be taken off somewhere. Ended up the taxi driver did not know his way around Intramuros. We did get there in the end, but some damage to C ( physically and mentally). The Sky Deck was great - a little windy and open to start, but this settled down. We had the buffet (good value at a bit over $20 AUS each). Nice Chilean wine.
22 Dec - Lazy day for C...not feeling the best. I went for a walk in Rizal Park taking photos. Lunch at the hotel - they would be pleased - they have been encouraging us to eat there, breakfast lunch or dinner. Instead on top of dinners as above, we have made friends with the staff at the local Stakbucks - good coffee and takeout breakfast so that we can do our own thing outside our hotel room - smoking area. That's it for now.