American Army tank, War Remnants Museum
Once again another quite sleepness night punctuated regularly by loud snoring from K... left me feeling quite irritable. At 2:30am when K got up to go to the toilet I asked to borrow her big ear-muffler type headphones hoping that would block the noise out a little better. It only marginally did. Got up at 8am and headed down to breakfast - I had a bit of fried egg with bread, some instant noodles, some mini veggie spring rolls and some orange cordial. At 9am met up with the group to go on a cyclo tour of HCMC. These were great contraptions with a seat on the front and a man peddling your around behind. First step was the War Remnants Museum. This was a very sad place with graphic, no-holds-barred photos of the victims of war - be it Agent Orange, torture or whatever.
Victim of Agent Orange, War Remnants Museum
I was almost moved to tears at a number of the images. Outdoors was lots of army tanks, helicopters etc all used by the Americans during the war. There was also a prison to the side where they talked about the torture methods used and had more visual displays. It's so sad that generations later, the Vietnamese are still reeling from the after effects of the war - disability (mental + physical), miscarriages etc. The photos were truly heart-wrenching. On the tour we also stopped at the outside of the Reunification Palace for a quick peek, then on to Notre Dame Cathedral then finally the GPO. Ooh forgot to mention at the Museum I bought a book 'Last Night I Dreamed of Peace' by Dang Thuy Tham, a pig postcard for the work girls, and a few other things.
Me with my cyclo driver
At the GPO K posted some clothes home as she'd overpacked, and I bought some dog stamps and sent my postcard to work. After that we headed to Pho 2000 (LP recommended) for lunch, and I had roast chicken with rice. After lunch all of us except M decided to walk to the Reunification Palace to go inside (15,000D). It has 96 rooms and has had 4 Presidents live in it. It has been re-built at least once as it was bombed heavily a long time ago. I found it very interesting to see the different decor in all the rooms - all in 70s style of course. There was a cinema, a gambling room and a First Lady's reception room among others. From the roof you could see the giant Vietnamese flag up close, fluttering in the breeze. After the palace K + I continued walking north-east to the Jade Emperor Pagoda just near Saigon River.
Notre Dame Cathedral
It was a long way but I enjoyed seeing people go about their daily business. The pagoda was pretty. Out the front you could buy bags of small goldfish or baby turtles then throw them into a pond inside the pagoda gates as an offering to the Gods. It was very peaceful inside the Pagoda away from the hustle and bustle of the streets, and there was a huge old tree in the centre of it with lots of pigeons flapping about. After the Pagoda neither of us felt like walking back so we took two motorbikes for 40,000D each. We were each given an ill-fitting helmet to wear. Boy was it fun zipping around the streets! We made it back in no time but did cover a fair distance making us realise how far we'd walked. We ducked back to the hotel briefly to drop off our shopping, then walked across the crazy roundabout to look for pirate DVDs/CDs.
We were unsuccessful and tired by this point so just headed back to the hotel. I fired off a quick email to my sister then had a shower before meeting the group at 6pm. K decided to stay in as she had a migraine. We headed to the night market outside Ben Thanh where the others had a beer then went to dinner at the yellow-shirted 'Sao Dong', which E kindly shouted us as it was International Women's Day today! All day we had seen flowers - primarily red roses - for sale by the side of the road. Apparently guys buy them for their wife, mother and girlfriend and they also cook for them this one day of the year. Anyway, I had beef sato with bakchoy and rice for tea which was very nice but quite spicy! E and I followed dinner up with a scoop of cookies + cream icecream in a thin waffle cone from a Tip Top vendor for 20,000D. I headed back to the hotel after that. Watched the end of 'Dead Poet's Society' on cable TV then turned out the lights.