Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog› entry 22 of 26 › view all entries
our first full day in Dalat we walked in the heat (no suncream, we were told dalat was supposed to be cool) to ? pagoda...noone there apart for a monk at the altarchanting and donging a bell in rhythm. I then tried to guide us all to ? Monastery but couldn't find it so gave up and sat and a had a drink for a while to get out of the heat. We then made our way to 'Crazy house' (or Hang Nga Guesthouse and art gallery)..called crazy house by the locals because a very strange construction...like alice in wonderland architecture where you can walk down the back of a girafe, rooms on stilts that look like they are dripping, strange walkways - the rooms, eachhad a strange huge nimal in, and curved beds and wooden carved furniture. We then attempted to walk to the newly opened cable car on the next hill...but too far, and got a bit desperate in the heat - flagging down a taxi when possible. The cable car ride had excellent views across the valleys and hills covered in pine trees, up one hillside and then steeply down the other. Once we arrived not sure what to do...this was all newer than the vietnam LP - explored a bit and found a newly constructed 'Buddha park' - where real live buddhists live (all seemed a bit clinical and touristy) but again more great views across pine forest and then down to the massive resevoir where you can get boat rides. Back on the cable car and walked back to hotel, where i don't think my legs could take much more. The next day we decided that instead of booking on a tour we'd make up our own and take taxis from one site to the next..walking towards Bao Dai'sSummer Palace No.3 only to realise it would be shutting in 15mins (11am) - they shut for lunch as do all musuems etc so annoying! So got a taxi to Datanla falls - into the pine forrest. Again a new addition to the falls was a 'Alton Tower esque ride' - a sort of sledge on runners down through tracks in the forrest to the bottom of the waterfall - was such good fun - could control how fast you went/whether you wanted to break etc! Falls were pretty, with a funny addition of a horse and Vietnamese guy dressed as a cowboy and another as a gorrilla - who would get photots with that in the background?! (a guy did while we were there to prove people do). Then taxi back to the centre and to the train station, noted for its Art Deco interior - track no longer used for trains, just stationary ones - old steam engine where 2 brides posing for a video (actors for a music video?) teamed up with 3 others and they decided they would run the one train and track that still goes to the next destination down the line. Good views as we went -- all of the hill sides deforested though, with many tents covering the land, growing veg i guess. Arrived at the next village down the line, had half an hour to explore walking to a noted pagoda - think built in the 50s very ornate with porcelain/clay painted dragons all over and a huge dragon in the garden next to the pagoda. Back to the train station and back to dalat - we walked down to the lake and then flagged another taxi to take us backto the palace (now hopefully open)...built in 1933 on hillside with big landscapped gardens. we had to put cloth cover over our shose as we enteted the palace...slightly dowdy feel to the palace, very 1950s in design and colours chosen for appolstery and wall colours etc. We then finally got a taxi back to the ? monastery where French speaking nuns live, bright pink building with lovely courtyard with well kept flower beds...nuns standing around smiling, speaking tiny bit of english, we walked up to see the chapel - very ugly 1950s(?) design. Finally droppedby the strip of bars running up the hill by the market where we tried a couple, having adrink at each.
On Thursday we got our bus to Ho Chi Minh City..8am-4pm...as soon as we were down from the mountains of dalat we felt the humidit and heat that you don't get there...very slow going coming into HCMC because of all the traffic. Got off the bus in the central backpacker district that is Pham Ngu Lao - justoverwhelmed by the noise, humidity and amount of people around....felt very shaky for the first evening - think that's what happens when coming into a huge metropolis. Amelia nd Andy went off to their hotel, while i had a female tout lead me down a back alley to an $8 room in what seemed to be someones house (reception and hallway their living room with sofa and tv!) but suited me fine. Met with Amelia and Andy for a drink at various bars where we had an extra drink added t our bill (as if! - waitress said 'it was your friend' ?! then i ate a pizza, which i had been craving for 2 days! Humidity doesn't really seem to reduce at nighttime here.
On Friday we sent off in the sweat bath that is HCMC walking down to the river to have a look - very dirty and ugly was the main conclusion with huge ships on it. Then we walked for a long way trying to find a pagoda, but gave up as just couldn't work it out. We then went into the Botanical Gardens where all we did was sit on a bench for 45mins too exhausted to move or even speak - heat just drains you! Once the History Museum had opened (shut for lunch as always) we went in and took a look round, running through the history of Vientam with lots of artifacts on display...we then walked to restaurant to find it closed, one next door also recommended in the LP - bit of a dive with sky high prices (well for Vietnam) so didn't order food just drinks - when they brought the bill they'd added the fresh colths and peanuts to it even though they gave these to us without us asking?! Menu on wall incredible - frogs stomach, baby pigs in milk, minced snake, fried rat etc etc. We then walked down to fing another LP recommended 'Magombo (i think) restuarant' - walls covered in bamboo sticks, and lots of greem plants, tiger skins on the wall - served mexican food as well as other - airconditioned was all I cared about at that point! Then walked back to try the Ben Thanh Market - huge and smelly with eveything you could want in it. You get pestered so much in HCMC in comparrison to other Vietnamese cities (and they are pretty bad) - especially when sitting in a restaurant - book sellers (they carry piles on theis hips here), chewing gum sellers (often mothers carrying their babies to increase your guilt at not buying), shoe shiners, perfume sellers, cigarette lighter sellers - it's overwhelming - often 2 at your table at once!
Saturday - Amelia and Andy's last day :-( - Amelia went for some nail art - was amazing, red with flower designs and only 30 000 dong ($2)! We then wisely got a taxi to another large shopping mall - trying to do last minute shopping...we then walked a long way to 'Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda' described in the LP as one of the most beautivfully ornamented constructions in HCMC - felt like a real and used pagoda with incense coils hanging from the roof and burning. We then went for a break in a massive, airconditioned, rather pricey shopping centre (Gucci etc and real for a change) where we went to the top level to try out the chain restaurant 'Pho 24' - Amelia and Andy both had Pho (the dish that everyone eats here - noodles, with beef). Finally we walked to another pagoda called 'Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda' and then taxi back for A and A to change in to warmer clothes and a last 'Saigon' beer in 'Le pub' - very nice pub down small pedestrianised road. It was then time for A and A to get a taxi to the airport so I said farewell and I was alone again :"-(! In the evening I found 'Zen' vegitarian restaurant by mistake but turned out to be the tastiest meal i've had for a while - Burritos etc.
On my final day in Vietnam (slightly relieved i have to say!) I tried to get up early and walk down to Renufication Palace but massive grounds, ended up walking round the whole of the site to get to the entrance - urgh. Kind of an extremely ugly 1970s building but in another way quite attractive and definitely stand out from anything around it. The interior rooms are extremely 70s in style with with moss greens and oranges used for carpets, mixed with silk chinese style slk apolstery covers. Then made my way to the War Remnants Museum for an 1hr1/2 of intensive photo viewing - wished i'd known all this before starting my trip in Vietnam - did not realise the Vietnam war was such recent history or the effects still very real today (on my way back i noticed around 4 beggars along the pavements with burnt faces/limbs missing or deformities probably because of Agent orange). Some terrible images displayed in the exhibit and I don't know how another human could carry out the attrocities.
I then walked back to the market and made my way to what i thought was going to be a Hindu temple but turned out to be the Fine Arts Museum - the heat is definitely getting to me! Museum had contemporary art displayed in the ground rooms and then the oldest stuff at the top of the building. Finally back to the Dong Khoi Area where i booked my ticket to Cambodia for the next day.