What’s a Vietnam trip without Miss Saigon references? Haha, yeah, I’m annoying like that. It’s a running joke between my sister and I that what we know about Vietnam is because of Miss Saigon, and in the case of our dad, because of Chuck Norris Movies. He would go to places and say “Yeah, this is what I saw in (insert Chuck Norris movie title here!)”
Anyway, our stay in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, as it is more popularly called, was very touristy. My sister and I barely got to go out and see the city by ourselves because of the heat. It was even hotter than Manila! While Manila was feeling the effects of the easterlies, driving the temperature down to as low as mid to high 20s, Saigon was blistering hot, thus, The Heat is On in Saigon! 🙂 Hahaha
Anyway, our guide, Ms. Vi, met as at our hotel lobby at exactly 12nn the day after we got to the city. Here are the places we visited during our two days in Saigon:
Reunification Palace/Independence Palace
Just a block away from our hotel was the Reunification Palace. It was actually weird that we took a car to there because it was very near our hotel. Hahaha. Anyway, this place felt a lot like The Mansion in Baguio, only, people can get in and really explore the building.
Inside it felt like Marcos-era Malacanang. Well, it looked similar to what I remember of Malacanang from first grade and from photos I’ve seen. It wouldn’t be too surprising if both places seem similar, because this place at one time served as the house of South Vietnam’s President. Of course, this was before the “reunification” of North and South Vietnam.
It was a total blast from the past, especially in the basement with all the dated intelligence materials! It kinda felt like Papa’s old office actually. Haha.
War Remnants Museum
The Vietnam War remains to be a very important part of their history (and the main reason why Papa wanted to go to Vietnam,) so it is just fitting that they have one big museum that talks about it. It was truly horrifying having to see photos of children and babies who were affected by Agent Orange and the other kinds of biological warfare that were used in the countryside. I admit, what I know of the Vietnam War, I know only because of Miss Saigon and Forrest Gump. I haven’t even watched Apocalypse Now or any of the other movies that have really tackled it in depth, so this was really a surprise for me.
Outside there were airplanes and tanks, which of course, looked familiar to us because Papa was a pilot in the Air Force in his younger years. He used to fly airplanes like these too. 🙂
Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Post Office
The Post Office is right beside the Cathedral, so essentially, it was just one stop. Too bad the Post Office facade was under construction though. I think they were repainting it so we didn’t get to see it in its full glory.
Ben Thanh Market
Goods in Vietnam are very cheap, so shopping is a must for most tourists. However, my sister and I weren’t really into shopping, mostly because of baggage concerns. The only thing we wanted to buy was Vietnamese Coffee, because we heard it was really good. Ben Thanh Market looks a lot like Divisoria. There’s a wet market that sells fruits and vegetables, and there’s also a part that sells clothes, bags, and other dry goods. Most of the bags were obviously fake though, so it wasn’t too appealing for me. There were also a lot of Vietnamese souvenirs being sold all throughout the market. From something as simple as keychains or magnets, there were also liquor with scorpions/snakes in them being sold.
Ms. Vi, our guide, warned us that Ben Thanh Market had already become too commercialized. Vendors already know that a lot of tourists go there, so their prices aren’t really as cheap as it should be.
Binh Tay Market
Instead of having us shop at the Ben Thanh Market, our guide made us shop here instead. The Binh Tay Market is a smaller Ben Thanh, and a bit more down to earth. It is truly a palengke, in the truest sense of the word. It was here that we got to buy the coffee that we wanted to buy for about 20% cheaper than the Ben Thanh prices.
Thien Hau Temple
Thien Hau Temple is a Chinese temple found in Cholon District, or in Saigon’s Chinatown. It is dedicated to the Lady of the Sea, to whom the early Chinese settlers in Vietnam prayed to for a good voyage.
Ms. Vi bought us some incense and taught us how to pray to the Lady of the Sea. She also brought me to this area in the temple where people, specifically women, pray to have a boyfriend. Hahaha. I guess she took my joke seriously. :p Well, according to her, it has worked for a lot of people, so let’s see what happens!