Friday, March 11, 2016

2016 Asia Mega Trip - A Day In Saigon

We are off to a later start today. The hotel we're staying in Saigon turns out to be a state run property. What a difference from the privately held one we stayed at in Hoi An. Getting anyone to smile or do anything more than the minimum is an effort. I felt like I'd scored when I got the lady who hosts the breakfast buffet to smile this morning. We're hitting a number of the main sites of Saigon today - the Reunification Palace, the War Museum, the Imperial Jade Pagoda, the Ben Than Market, The Chinese Market, The Night Market, plus Mr. A had us trying street food at the Chinese Market and took us to one of his hip local places for dinner and a drink...when I say hip I mean that the oldest people there other than us were in there 30's and it was big gay and lesbian hangout - just the kind of place that Wife and I go to all the time right?

The Reunification Palace

The original build was build by the French in the late 19th century after their conquest of Vietnam. That building was destroyed by a bombing in 1962. The current structure was built over the next year and represents a merging of Western architectural style with Asian fengshui.

Yes, we are here
All kinds of meeting rooms

Staircase representing a dragon's head

Colors are mostly red (symbolizing power) and gold (representing wealth)

Lots of artwork

Private quarters

View to the street outside

Our guide, Mr. A, has given us an in depth explanation of all the symbolism that one sees in a building like this and others. There is a complex combination of Chinese, Buddhist, Taoist, and Ancestor worship that imbues so much of what we are seeing.

I don't have any pictures of the War Museum. This is a sobering and pretty depressing testament to just how horrible the American War (I'll use their term) was to this country. I was impressed that they have one room that has pictures that were taken by American and other Westerners and gives feelings of the warriors to our side. But make no doubt about it, this is a place that is devoted to showing just how much Vietnam suffered as a result of the conflict. I had reached an epiphany during meditation this morning after the hard reaction I had at the Cu Chi tunnels so was able to go through this without the trauma.
Jade Imperial Pagoda

According to Mr. A in spite of its name this is a temple and not a pagoda. The later is a Buddhist center, the former is Ancestor worship. Mr. A gave us a really in depth explanation of how people integrate worship into their daily lives. I was impressed at the number of people who were coming into the temple to do their prayers and devotions. This is something that we've seen so far throughout our trip to Vietnam.


As we went into the Ben Than Market and the Chinese Market I was in cell phone protection mode. Mr. A made it clear there were lots of pickpockets and I shouldn't just have it loose in my hand. Besides I was on a mission. I cannot reveal what my mission was because there are peering eyes that peruse this blog who could subvert the mission. Let's just say as the Vietnamese believe in ancestor worship, I know their are good boys and girls in cold, humid climates who worship the Scarf Fairy. One hopes the Scarf Fairly finds their offerings of wine and whiskey favorably.

I did sneak some pictures of the Chinese Market which is a wholesale market. Much of what you see in the other markets comes from here.


We ate at the market today. At one place we had two kinds of fish (fried and stewed) with rice. And at the other we had Vietnamese Foot Noodles. These are cold rice noodles with various meats or other major ingredients put on top with some leafy vegetable and savory condiments added. You mix the whole thing up and eat it.

Making the dish up

Dish served and ready to be mixed up. It was very yummy.

On the way back to the hotel we passed many vendors, one selling sugar cane. Mr. A asked if we wanted to try it and we said sure.
Sugar cane production

And the end product...we were shocked. We had no idea it was a sugar cane juice. We thought it was something you ate.

Doing the Town

Mr. A after we had a couple of hours of rest, took us to see a night market which was very touristy. Then we grabbed a cab to experience what he said he and his buddies did when they wanted to get together and shoot the breeze. It was way different. There were all these girls in tight dresses waiting to greet you when you got out of your taxi or off your bike. You were whisked to an outdoor table where they showed you the available alcohol. Three young waiters hovered around you getting you your food. Everyone was way young and as we found out later this is hipster, gay/lesbian central. Wife and I were certainly in our element! Actually it was a lot of fun and to be honest nobody paid any attention to us.

The drink of choice by most tables and according to Mr. A his friends is vodka mixed with ice and a soft drink. He chose 7-Up. The mix was a half bottle of vodka to two cans of soda.

Pouring shots which are down after saying 1, 2, 3 Cheers in Vietnamese
Mr. A pouring our shots.
A taste of the ambiance with Mr. A impatient for me to stop taking video

Roasted veal covered in a pork powder to absorb excess liquid. It was wrapped in leaves with green banana and cucumber and dipped in a sauce

Fried noodles with pork and vegetables

Drunken onions which are onions marinated in a sweet/sour sauce, eggs that have been cured with ash and come out very rich (weird but good) and reconstituted dried shrimp. Eaten all together it gave you salty, sweet, sour, and rich.

Really a fun evening

1 comment:

alexis said...

we who worship the scarf fairy are already preparing our offerings!