Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ho Chi Minh

What can we say but...

We arrived yesterday late morning after two flights and a layover in Taipei. We were greeted by the roar of motorcycles and hornhonking as we took a car and zoomed to our hotel through the chaotic traffic - mostly motorcyles/scooters, often with multiple passengers (the most we saw on one was a family of five). Our hotel - the Bich Duyen - is on a quiet back lane off one of the main streets in the backpacker area.  It is a great location and the hotel is clean and cheap and pleasant.

We went out yesterday walking through the city.  We quickly learned how to cross the street against the traffic, which seldom stops. The key is: just step out into the street, keep your eyes open, but just walk ahead and trust that the hundreds of motorcycles will just part around you. So far it has worked. One time though we must have hesitated too long before crossing, as a tiny, old woman crossed the street towards us, took me and my mother by the hand and walked us back across, me laughing with fear the whole time.

The city, for the most part, is not attractive, but is very interesting.  We wandered down narrow back lanes lined with what appeared to be one room houses and people cooking on the street over open coals, all manner of meat, vegetables, and tofu.  There is a wonderful assortment of street snacks here - all of which looks delicious, but little of it vegetarian.  Women are everywhere in their conical hats, carrying food for sale and other trinkets.

We visited the Ben Thanh market which was a maze of items for sale, including textiles, clothing, household items, and food.  We sat at the low, plastic (child-sized) tables and stools outside one of the food stalls and had a bowl of vegetables and noodles, and a thickly sweet iced coffee.

We also visited a couple of temples/pagodeas.  The Jade Emperor Pagoda had ponds outside teeming with fish and turtles, which people fed with needlessly large amounts of bread, which flosted on top of the water unappetizingly. The inside was beautiful though - small and dark with carvings of buddhas and tigers, with two altars of gold buddhas and dozens of people makign offerings of flowers and incense. The incense was thick and filled the room with an atmospheric haze.  We visited a similar temple in the Cholon (Chinatown) neighborhood where we were charged by a brave rat, which sent us off on our way prematurely.

In the evening we went out for dinner and sat on a patio on a busy street, with a cigar, watching the traffic and people. It was a pleasant evening. The weather has been nice; it is hot and humid, but not oppressively so.  i think it is nice.

We have just had breakfast at our hotel and will now go on a walk in the neighborhood before catching a bus to the Mekong, where we will tranfer to a boat, taking us north.


Barry Curts said...

Hi Glad everything is going okey. The rat would have sent me to the airport. Very brave of you to still be enjoying yourself. So look forward to reading about the rest of your adventure. CHEERS PAT

Anonymous said...

Looks like an eye opener. Have fun.

Karen Robin Metrunec said...

Great to hear of your adventures, reminds us of Thailand. We will follow your travels & wish you great fun! Stay safe & good luck with the food.