We were fortunate enough to spend the first few weeks of this month in the beautiful country of Vietnam. We started in Ho Chi Minh City, at the far southern tip, and worked our way north to Hanoi, with a few stops in between. Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon, before reunification, and most of the locals still refer to it as such.
Of course, we need our gratuitous Mt. Fuji picture from the airplane. It's strange that I've come to think of this sight as "home".
Just arrived and waiting for a taxi. The tropics always feel good in February!
I was not prepared for the ride to the hotel. There were absolutely no driving rules that I could ascertain. Motorbikes and cars were everywhere, and the painted lane lines seemed to be "suggestions", at best.
We spent the evening walking around, dodging motorbikes, and learning to cross the street! You do not look both ways in this country, (we would still be standing there!), you slowly just start walking and let the cars dodge you. Yes, we walked right through traffic like this. It was harrowing at first, but you actually do get used to it!
The hotel breakfast bar included a pho station, a Vietnamese favorite. Ella loved it!
Xin Chao (hello)!
Let this adventure begin!
I still couldn't get over the motorbikes. This was some type of parking area, and some bikes were parked two or three deep. How do you even get out?
There were also people transporting everything you could imagine. Safety first!
As we walked, lots of people were trying to sell us various things, I guess you could say, we stand out. What?! We don't look local? One man was quite friendly, and casually gave Matt his load of coconuts, so he could see how heavy it was. We soon learned, this was a gesture used to reel us in for a purchase.
The man quickly cut off the top of the coconut and handed one to each girl. All the while, Matt kept asking, "How much?"
He wouldn't answer until we refused more coconut. Finally, he said $4 each. Matt paid it but we knew we'd just been had. You can buy a coconut at the market for about a quarter. I guess capitalism is alive and well, even in a communist country!
One lesson learned. But, at least we got some coconut water out of the deal, and straight from the coconut itself!
There were lots of "festive" decoration's out for the TET holiday, an independence celebration, and also for the upcoming lunar new year.
You never know what you'll find on city streets.
We started the day at the War Remnant Museum.
There were lots of US Army vehicles here, that had been left behind after the evacuation of Saigon.
The museum portion was all about the Vietnam perspective of the US conflict, known to them, as the American War. We ran into a group of Vietnam veterans at the museum and it was interesting to hear their take on the propaganda and how everything was being presented.
There was also a prison on the premises, that dealt mostly with the French occupation of Vietnam. (Yes, Matt is feeling the effects of the humidity!)
Next up, the Independence Palace. This was the residence of the President of South Vietnam during the war, and was also where the war ended. A North Vietnamese tank crashed through the front gates, signaling the fall of Saigon. Today, it is just used as a historical site.
Coincidentally, the original structure was designed and built by the French, but it was partially destroyed during a conflict, and rebuilt in 1962. Too bad it wasn't just restored, I'm just not a fan of '60's architecture!
The rooms had a very presidential feel.
And this is the view from one of the balconies.
This was some type of war strategy room. My girls were in awe that these were actually phones, and that you had to sit right there to talk on them. It is a very interesting conversation, trying to explain to a child, how to dial a rotary phone. Try it sometime!
And the communications room. How times have changed!
We enjoyed wandering the palace, as well as the surrounding grounds. Ella found her dream tree in Saigon!
It was time for a refresher. We found a lovely outdoor patio and ordered some iced Vietnamese coffee, a very popular drink. It consists of a few shots of sweetened condensed milk, and coffee. Even to me, someone who normally can take or leave coffee, this drink was a little piece of heaven in a glass! I'm still dreaming of this. (Coincidentally, Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world.)
A beautiful model, on a photo shoot, took some time out for us.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the downtown area, enjoying all the French architecture. This was the post office.
Notre Dame, Saigon.
I truly felt like I was in Europe.
The Hotel Continental, famed as a popular journalist hang out, during the war.
The Saigon Opera house.
I don't even remember what this building was, but it was beautiful! I guess I didn't realize the extent of the French influence in Vietnam. (The French occupied this country for roughly 100 years.)
We came across a very dirty river. Not so sure I will be eating the seafood!
Yes, the motorbikes even drive on the sidewalk, then honk at ME?!
One of the rare times that everyone actually stopped at the red light.
The next time you are stressed out about making sure that your child's car seat meets every safety requirement under the sun, think about a Vietnamese car seat and relax!
After a long day, hanging out in style in the airport lounge.
Tomorrow, on to DaNang, a little further up the coast.