Leaving Hoi An for the southern 'capital' of Vietnam was quite a drastic change in every respect. While other places in Vietnam can be called the imperial center or political center, Ho Chi Minh city is the country's economic heart, not just in its industrial role, but also as the cosmopolitan city of trade and finance. Despite many particularly vietnamese qualities, Ho Chi Minh city is becoming more and more like the other big cities in the region; KFC's, Pizza Hut's and a swath of other international chains dot the roadscape. Most of the city is from the 1970's or newer, and as construction rages on, it already has its fair share of skyscrapers. Going away from our previously pampered stay, we decided to bunk down in a cheap hotel in the backpacker area of the city, to the south of the main park of the downtown part of the city. Much like Hanoi, Saigon has hundreds of nondescript, small, cheap hotels, and the one of choice for us was Saigon Sports I. It was an immediate upgrade from the one we had in Hanoi, but what we gained in cleaniness and comfort we perhaps gave up a bit in helpfulness and familiarity with the hotel owners/staff. What was a definite downgrade was the breakfast, the second worst of the trip(after Hotel Sputnik in Tomsk), which was in fact quite surprising given the french culinary influence in Vietnam, but since we had to go to Saigon Sports hotel 2 for breakfast, providing food for three hotels(as there is a Saigon Sports hotel 3, all within 5 minutes of each other) one can understand why the quality of the food could suffer. Anyway, we got a triple room during our stay as a brazilian friend of mine, recently moved to Singapore, came to the visit the city along with us, but arriving early the second morning, giving us an afternoon to wander the city in search of more unusual destinations. Our choices were mainly limited to alternative religious sites, the first of which was a peculiar confucionist temple. After a short taxi ride(as Saigon has the cheapeast and best taxis encountered on this trip, and perhaps in all the world, we arrived to find a small courtyard in front of the temple, with a few pools here and there, all filled with turtles. As the turtle is such an important animal, religiously, in the region, it was not all that surprising, except for their numbers, as zoos and amphibian sanctuaries would even be jealous. Sadly, there were also three large turtles in the courtyards, but unlike their smaller brethren, who had pond-like pools to swim in, had cages not much larger than themselves to live in. In a cloud of incense, the interior of the temple has a series of quite creepy wooden statues, which were strange to comprehend if they were more like confucionist heroes, deities, or more like semblances of spirits of our world. Prayers and oil and incense were offered to them by the locals visiting their house of worship, intermittently interrupted by flashes of cameras of the tourists, who like us had cought on to this unusual temple, but the heat and the smoke pushed us on towards our next stop, the cathedral. This church, a 15 stroll across and along almost impassable avenues, looks exactly as old as it is, which is to say not very. The statue of the virgin mary in front of the church though is much more remarkable than the church itself (even giving it its name, Notre Dame), presenting some semblance of continuity in a part of the city full of new skyscrapers and shopping malls. Right next to the church was the striking french colonial Post Office, that we thought was actually the train station, given the grandeur and opulence of its interior and exterior decoration. From there we went on to the most iconic sight in the city, City Hall. This is perhaps the most opulent building we have seen on the trip, but is known to the be the photo op of choice because of a large statue of Ho Chi Minh in the square in front of the building, thus known as getting your picture taken with Uncle Ho. Our final stop, before dinner, was visiting the Hindu temple of the city, which was quite a different sight, hindu deities, new varieties of incense, flowers and other items of prayer upon green floors and walls. Our dinner that night was 'Hue cuisine', and was far tastier, but also far stranger, than any food we had in Hue itself. Besides a strange mix of rice, grains, nuts and herbs, we had these rolls with sour shrimp on top, but that were also extremely spicy, and made anna unable to taste anything else for the rest of the meal. The next morning, after my friend arrived, we set off for the two landmark museums of the city, the first of which was the War Remnants Museum. This building housed exhibits about the Vietnam war, with some inclusion of the period directly preceding it and the war of independence against the french. Although having a very specific agenda and politics behind the choice of commentary and exhibits, the museum was extremely informative and powerful. Sections of military history of the war and the variety of weapons, bombs, and mines used in the war were interesting, but photographic series of the bombing, executions, exploded mines, and particularly victims of agent orange were jarring, if not disturbing. After this we went to a BBQ restaurant, with a small BBQ pit brought onto our table, where we roasted beef as well as deliciously marinated crocodile meat, and this was far from the most unusual option on the menu, as it included spiders, ostrich, turtle, and impossible to overlook, 'ox penis in medicinal juices'. After lunch we went to the 'Reunification Palace', a french colonial palace but that was redone in the 1960s by the Americans to be the palace and headquarters of the South Vietnamese government. The exceptional nature of the building is that the place was left almost untouched from the day the victorious North Vietnamese tanks crashed the gates and took control of the palace. Those two tanks are on display on the grounds, and inside we saw the formal dining rooms of the president and vice president, the presidential private cinema, his awesome 70s bar, the helicopter pad on the roof where the south vietnamese government officials and their American 'advisors' made their escape, and the secret basement with the president's bunker and the war room still left as it was in 1969, which although was more of a bunker than anything, had an eerily similar feeling to the former KGB prison we visited in Vilnius, Lithuania years ago. After leaving the palace we made our way to the Vietnamese blind institute, we were to get blind massages. It unfortunately took a long time before we got our massages, given how popular they were. Soon enough, a tropical rainstorm came down upon the city, which was still raging when we got on the massage beds. It was something different altogether to be in the hands of those whose sense of touch was much more highly developed while tropical rain battered the windows and thin window panes. Feeling refreshed we made our way to a restaurant that served street food in a fancier setting, and again were not dissapointed with our food. Our final half day was spent walking along the streets of the city we had not had a chance to pass, with shopping points of interest as our specific destinations. Taking it easy, we then made our way to the airport, expecting a slow journey through dense traffic, that in the end flowed qutie easily, again due to the alternative nature of how traffic works in Vietnam. A plane would then take us to our final Vietnamese destination, the tropical island of Phu Quoc.