Monday, May 16, 2011

Vietnam - Day 3: Saigon sight-seeing

So after two days in Saigon, (most of) the rest of our group arrived!  Hooray!  We got to the airport, and the first flight came in right on time.  It brought Medlin!

After we met up with him, we were expecting the next flight within a half hour or so.  Eric, Ana, Lisa and Richard were on it.  But the time came and they weren't there!  So we waited (along with the 47 million other people jammed outside the airport waiting on their loved ones).  And we waited.  And waited.  For what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few hours.  The crowds thinned as people found their people, and the airport cleared.  When they finally arrived, the newbies got a scooter introduction to Saigon, but I opted for a taxi.  By this time, it was probably 1 AM, and so we all went to the hotel and crashed.

The next morning, we all gathered together for breakfast in a random alleyway, and it was amazing!!  Here's our group eating brekkie.

It was called broken rice, which I believe is just...ummm...rice that is broken?  And a fried egg!  And short ribs!  Washed down with a cafe sua da (more on that later!), it was a great start to a great day.  Since everyone else had just arrived, we spent this day sightseeing again.  And it was nice to see the sights again!  (Especially the Rex bar - ha!)

Here's the view past our table down the alleyway.

Walking around Saigon - headed to the market!  We spent a lot of time in there - everything you possibly needed was there (except Tutti Frutti, a smoothie bar we found near our hotel).

Fruit stand.  Most of the fruits were recognizable, but some were completely foreign to me!

Here we are in the market.  Try as I might to be cute each day, it was impossible.  It was about 95 degrees each day, with the blazing hot equatorial sun beating down on us, no air conditioning (except in our hotel room), and almost 100 percent humidity.  So straightening my hair was out, wearing my hair down was out, my makeup lasted maybe 15 minutes before sweating off, and the sheen of perspiration never quite went away.  It may sound gross, but hey - it was HOT!  Two showers a day and I still felt dirty all the time!

Eric & Ryan in the market

Eric, Ryan and Medlin

With few Americanized stores around, you pretty much found what you needed in the market.  It was like a hot, crowded Wal-Mart.  

This would be the Babies R Us.  They sold diapers, lotions, shampoos, clothes--everything for little ones.

I'm kind of drawn to anything sparkly or brightly colored, and this stall hooked me!  

Heading back to the hotel from the market, I noticed this apartment with awesome looking gardens...

When we got back to the hotel, it was time to eat all the weird fruits we had purchased at the market.

We called these "orangutans" (said with "tang" on the end, but I don't like seeing the red squiggly line underneath the word as I type it - lol).  They are, in reality, called rambutans.  The outside was prickly and scary looking.

Inside was a fruit that had kind of looked like an eyeball, but had the consistency and texture of a peeled grape.  They kind of tasted like grapes too, and by that I mean that they were juicy and kind of had no flavor.

Next we tried custard apples, which were not my favorite.  They kind of looked like an artichoke, with large black seeds inside creamy white flesh.  They were just okay.

Next up: dragonfruit.  Now I've had dragonfruit before, as it is very pretty.  As I mentioned above, I'm a sucker for anything sparkly or brightly colored, and this includes at the grocery store!

I guess I didn't take a pic of the inside, which is actually beautiful as well, so I borrowed this one from the internet:

Finally, we had some mangosteens.  These were my absolute favorite.  They kind of looked like plums on the outside, but once cracked open looked like bulbs of garlic.  Thankfully they tasted like sweet sweet plums almost.  Sickly sweet, really.

Medlin & Eric enjoy some fruits!

Ryan ate so much fruit he had to rest.  :)

Tony eats fruit!

So after our culinary lesson (and hello!  A break in the air conditioning!), we decided to head back out for more sightseeing.

This is what durian fruit looks like.  This is as close as I would get.  NASTY NASTY NASTY stuff.  

Huzzah!  Back to the Rex for more bevs!  But first, a walk around the area...

It was a swanky building.  That's Chanel on the ground floor.

Ryan and I in front of a building...I'm going to google it and try to figure out what it is...okay, it is the HQ for the Ho Chi Minh People's Committee and is in the French Colonial style.  Gorgeous, but closed to the public.  Which is fine with me.  I really only care about the architecture of most buildings, not what's inside them.  That's how I roll when I sight-see.

This is the busy roundabout in front of the Rex.  I like roundabouts, or roundy-rounds, as I call them.

Walking toward the Opera house.

Gathering all the potted palm trees together, thank goodness???

Saigon Opera House (or to be politically correct, the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre)


I love that these columns holding up the ceiling are ladies.  I think it's actually pretty awesome, and if I ever built a magnificent palace or building in which I needed columns, I would TOTALLY do this!

The boys in front of the opera house

Dunno.  There was no pay phone inside either, so I wonder why they just left the busted up phone booth in place?  Everything else around this area was so nice and swanky (note the perfectly manicured hedge in the background!)

We made it to the Rex!  Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.

Today, I tried a 333 beer - said in Vietnamese "ba ba ba".  I preferred the Saigon beer, but this one was still delicious.  And they served the BEST beer nuts I've ever eaten.  Hands down.

Closeups of the People's Committee building.  It was amazingly detailed and I wished I had brought my zoom lens on this excursion.  I almost got ran over while taking photos of this building!

There's the Lexus that tried to do me in.

To be fair, I was in the middle of a busy street.  

Next up, we headed to the Saigon Notre-Dame cathedral.  I was a Letters major in college and took almost all my electives in the Art History department.  As such, I am a complete sucker for anything with Gothic spires or anything cathedral-y.

Ryan was in LOVE with this Jag.  Apparently you can't get it in America yet.  And since cars are so ridiculously expensive in Vietnam (at least 3-4 times higher than here) and since car owners have to "tip" the customs people to get their vehicles through customs (read: bribe), cars, especially incredibly nice ones like these would cost an arm and a leg.  Although if you can afford a car in Vietnam, you can probably afford the vig too.

Here is Our Lady.  I was obsessed with this statue.  I just simply loved it.

Break from looking up at the statue to see the sunflower garden at her feet.

TK and Lisa - bro and sis!

A picture of Tony taking pictures.

The boys

Saigon Central Post Office.  We didn't go in.

Back to the statue! 

I think this one is my favorite:

Side of Notre-Dame

The park

Reunification Palace

The Gates.  

It was strange seeing it in real life, since all I was familiar with was this image from the Vietnam War  (this is when the War ended - the Fall of Saigon - when the communist Northern Vietnamese army broke down the gate at this palace (which at that time was the home and workplace of the Southern Vietnamese president - like their White House) - this pic is from April 30, 1975):

Anywho...more sightseeing...I just loved this little angel/soldier on the top of the fence at a nearby Saigon site.

Ryan then saw a Mercedes Benz Brabus, which apparently (according to him) is probably the only one I will ever see in my life.  A quick google search tells me that they are insanely fast and cost around 350,000 EUROS.  Wow.  

Big Banyan tree.

So we were walking along, heading back in the general direction toward our hotel and we found a lady selling these little waffle-wafer-cookies.  They were quite possibly the most delicious thing I had in Vietnam.

 After we got some food, we bought some familiar-looking water.

BUT WAIT!!!!  That's not Aquafina.  It's AJAFIFA!  What the crap???  Knockoff water?!?!  Turns out, that's exactly what it was.  Ajafifa.  

We were swindled, I tell you.

Well, it was only like 15 cents, so we dealt with it.  

And across the street from our hotel was a salon offering $3 manicures!  That's right - remember how cheap I told you it was?  Here's Eric getting a mani.

And Ryan...

Finally it was naptime.  In my next post, the Grill Restaurant.  It was unlike any dinner I had ever had before.

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