Lost in translation Part 2

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog

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War museum facade

Waking up early seeing that the brochures i reviewed from reception earlier entailed early morning tours. decided to take the City tour today and asked if the receptionist could still book for me at the last minute.

Before that I enjoyed my free breakfast for a few minutes, options forever being "bre n e or bre n jam?" which meant "bread and egg or bread and jam" savored with the filtered famous Vietnamese coffee, ah pure bliss!

I was picked up by a burly loud guy wearing glasses and dragged to the front of the travel agency, a few feet away from the alley I stayed in to wait for my other companions who were composed of 5 other Koreans. A couple and a father and his 2 daughters.

We met Fu who explained the origin of his name and remained highly informative throughout the tour.

The guillotine used for torturing soldiers
We crammed inside our bus which was just a mini shuttle (same with our FX in Manila) which is their traditional cab that could fit 6 people in the back exactly our number.  5 minutes upon leaving the travel agency, one of the Korean daughters hurriedly asked the cab to stop explaining that she left some important items at the hostel, so we had to take a detour and head back. She came back after a minute (that was fast) with some Biscottis to make up for the inconvenience which I found pretty sweet. After all the fuss we were on our way. With the Koreans interviewing the peculiar tan girl travelling by herself (who was me) complete with her usual catchy ensemble and accessories.

It was terribly humid the entire day and I was seriously sweating all the time (not good), and to think Manila was already warm when I left.

Uncle Ho against the City Hall

The city tour cost 160000VND and included seeing:

1. The War Museum (entrance fee: 15000VND) which made my stomach churn with all its graphics. Highlighting on the damage done by the Americans to the Vietnamese during the war complete with pictures of the deformities caused by the bombs, the bomb shells and guns, the tanks, and a scary view of the Tiger cages where the Vietkongs were held captive together with dummy prisoners that I had to do double takes on to check if it was real or not, very credible!

2. Checking out the Post Office where I felt we stayed too long at but enjoyed discovering the international phone booths with the clocks having different time zones and checking out the postcards and souvenir pieces for sale while Fu played the xylophone at the souvenir shop.

Saigon Post Office
the place was so humid that i had to keep on stepping out to get some fresh air.

3. The Emperor of Jade Temple had enormous Buddhist god statues from floor to ceiling, watching with curiosity how the Korean father did his prayer.  This was built by Cantonese Buddhists who settled in Saigon in the 19th century. This temple is also home to the Hall of Ten Hells where there are carvings of various scenes of the various levels of hell.  Fu got annoyed that I didn't check out the 2nd floor to see their other gods. No thank you, I think i had enough incense stuck in my nostrils to last me a few days.

4.Enjoying free lunch at Kim's Cafe where I had Singaporean noodles (25000VND) sweet and spicy glass noodles with bean sprouts, vegetables and shrimp toppings, matching it with the Vietnamese tea which was no more than something akin to weak pee (heehaw!) The lunch was of course probably tied up for a percentage to the travel agency.

Paying my respects to the gods at Emperor of Jade Temple:-)
it was free for the first 10000VND worth of food and with everything on the menu costing over that we all ended up paying extra, well we can't complain, it's free right?

I then ended up waiting for half an hour for a downpour to subside and befriending and getting a free drink from the Korean couple who were sharing the same plight.

5. We visited a handicap factory right after lunch where they created amazing art out of eggshells and seashells. if you saw the 12+ steps it entailed to finish each you'd be amazed at the patience these war victims exerted which definitely explained the priciness of the pieces being sold. they had art pieces from frames to kitchen tools to furniture, it was really impressive. it made me think that this was probably how these repressed souls released their creativity and I found it really great and worthwhile.

Handicap factories using eggshells for artwork.

6. Ben Thanh market which i got lost in while trying to find the founders memorial located way back of the market. I then had to look for the ground built toilet which  gave me my first experience in peeing while squatting on the floor and was definitely not a great experience seeing all the locals just peeing everywhere around the cubicles washing it out with buckets full of water, talk about privacy. I also struggled and risked being jostled around by the merchants while finding stalls to buy my toiletries (11000VND) since Immigration confiscated my soap and conditioner due to the stupid ml limit per bottle policy, and socks (17000VND) since my new sneakers were slowly causing me to limp and I was smart enough to wear it barefooted.

A shrine at the back of Ben Than market?! allegedly to commemorate its founders.
  i thus arrived at our shuttle 15 min late, perspiring and getting Fu and the Koreans worried that I had misunderstood the meeting time "two fifty" instead of "two fifteen" which of course I clearly understood. I felt so bothered after not wanting them to think I was living up to the world famous "Filipino time" meaning we were always late.

6. The Reunification Palace where we saw where the old President used to lavishly live in complete with the helipad and chopper, the fabulous dance room and meeting rooms, and with an amazing garden that had a dragon dance at the time due to a launch of a new building I think!  Originally called the Independence palace, it was completed in 1966 and became the home of then President of South Vietnam until the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Beautiful symbolic rug at the palace
All the furnishings are interestingly kept intact but like with most of the places we visited for this day, it lacked airconditioning resulting to a terribly dehydrated feeling for most of the tourists as I observed.

I was maximizing my companions and tour guide throughout the trip to get my pictures of course.  

After this day i was so grateful for my experience as a call center trainer, being given the opportunity to train agents on the nuances of how Vietnamese people speak since they're part of our customer bulk, and proving that we were not teaching bull all this time.

Some nuances about Vietnamese speech:

1. They have difficulty pronouncing the ends of their statements.

2. They mix up their consonants, P and F, B and V


Feeling like royalty with the ambiance of the fancy resto Tracy and I dined in!
They are a tonal language,  they can have different meanings for the same statement based on the volume and tone that you deliver it with, hence the slashes and triangles above their written statements.

This day ended with my first meet up with Travbuddy Tracy. I was so grateful for this, she became my first friend in the country. We had dinner at a fancy resto she'd been curious about for sometime, in a more quiet backpacker area in downtown Saigon, then had a round of drinks at a local pub before fleeing from a guy who was pestering her:-)


blurbmoi says:
Glad you enjoyed it! Hope it was helpful:-)
Posted on: Aug 20, 2008
sdashiell says:
Awesome blog! I hope to visit Vietnam in a few months. Inshallah.
Posted on: Aug 19, 2008
andiboi says:
nyahaha! tagalog daw sabi ni betlog, pero obyus 'yung tonal language and limited english nyeheheh!
...nice blog, too bad I wasn't able to read this before my trip :(
Posted on: Jul 16, 2008
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This was the creepiest sight I saw for the trip that I had to do a double take. A dummy prisoner at the Tiger cages at the War museum

Complete anonymity. Arriving at Saigon again again because of the schedules of our Philippine carriers at dawn. My roaming still not up and working, i decided to take a cab from the airport seeing that there was no other form of transportation to the hostel which I booked prior to my arrival (excitedly a month before!)

Let me backtrack a little bit, I almost had to cancel this trip since work was hectic and my schedules changed overlapping with my flight sked. Fortunately i was able to negotiate an earlier sked with my boss and got to immigration just in the nick of time after getting stressed out with pressuring a cab to get to the airport as fast as he can.

Saigon airport is so small, with just a backpack and slingbag this time (having learned my lesson in KL) I was flying out the door as soon as the plane arrived.

And the missiles used for bombing
the cab was horribly expensive (200,000VND) no matter how much i bargained. i'd say it was definitely harder to converse with the Vietnamese with their limited English vocab, i literally had to do a lot of charades:-) and that wasn't very fun when you just want to exhaustingly get sleep.

there is a 1 hour time difference between Manila and Saigon, Manila being ahead an hour, meaning, i was stretching my sleeping time to another hour.

there i was right outside an alley close to  a busy backpacker club and knocking on glass double doors seeing that the receptionist seemed to be sleeping. Ni, the receptionist groggily opened the door for me, gave me helpful warning on carrying my bag around the area since apparently there were motors who might just whizz by and swipe your bag.

Start of my encounter with the American tanks used in the war
Swiper no swiping!!!  Giving me brochures on what tours they could arrange for me the next day, and giving me instructions on the facilities.

My room was supposedly on the 3rd floor but with 6 flights of stairs my blood was rushing to my head by the time we reached it. i even changed my mind in going back down to use the free internet what with all the effort involved. it was a good thing i bought food from Manila and hid it in my backpack else i'd have to trudge around the area at dawn to look for sustenance, that wouldn't be very nice.

Munching on the food, enjoying the cable TV after inspecting the room, i slept satisfactorily. The room was definitely decent and clean, getting a double bed room I decided to put the beds together and roll around both just so i could maximize it, heehaw, after all I was by myself.

andiboi says:
200.000 dong for a cab to Pam Ngu Lao, mahal nga! Dang Cebu Pac! mas mura daw kasi pag dis-oras ng gabi eh hehehe
...your room looks familliar Nina; is this Phi Long on Bu Vien?
Posted on: Jul 16, 2008
War museum facade
War museum facade
The guillotine used for torturing …
The guillotine used for torturing…
Uncle Ho against the City Hall
Uncle Ho against the City Hall
Saigon Post Office
Saigon Post Office
Paying my respects to the gods at …
Paying my respects to the gods at…
Handicap factories using eggshells…
Handicap factories using eggshell…
A shrine at the back of Ben Than m…
A shrine at the back of Ben Than …
Beautiful symbolic rug at the pala…
Beautiful symbolic rug at the pal…
Feeling like royalty with the ambi…
Feeling like royalty with the amb…
This was the creepiest sight I saw…
This was the creepiest sight I sa…
And the missiles used for bombing
And the missiles used for bombing
Start of my encounter with the Ame…
Start of my encounter with the Am…
Fire fighter planes
Fire fighter planes
Careful to cross over in one piece…
Careful to cross over in one piec…
Showing the different time zones
Showing the different time zones
Phone booths at the Saigon Post of…
Phone booths at the Saigon Post o…
Walking around in the busy area
Walking around in the busy area
The only Catholic church I saw aro…
The only Catholic church I saw ar…
Viewing the Buddhist temple
Viewing the Buddhist temple
Taoist deity (Emperor of Jade) ens…
Taoist deity (Emperor of Jade) en…
This is the finished product of th…
This is the finished product of t…
Amazing Vietnamese art
Amazing Vietnamese art
Reunification palace with the drag…
Reunification palace with the dra…
More frivolities in the president…
More frivolities in the president…
The living room
The living room
And dance halls
And dance halls
Old BMW used by the former Preside…
Old BMW used by the former Presid…
Saigon Opera at night. Majestic.
Saigon Opera at night. Majestic.
My first hostel room, joining the …
My first hostel room, joining the…