Smile #113 – Nice to Meet You, Ho Chi Minh [Part I]!

Nice to Meet You, Ho Chi Minh [Part I]!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is exactly 9212 miles away from Charlotte.  26 hours original planned flight time turned into 32 hours actual flight time from Charlotte to Ho Chi Minh City.  Thanks to this trip, I smashed my personal record of longest flight time.

Our agenda for today is a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City.  Please be on time and bring two bottles of water were the only notes we received.  This lead us to believe we will be walking around the city in 93 degrees heat.  #firstworldproblem  We felt quite relieved to see a big bus pull up!

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First stop, the Reunification Palace, a major landmark in Ho Chi Minh City.   We took a stroll around the perimeter of the building and saw a tank stationed on the yard.  It is the same model tank that famously ended Vietnam War!  Our tour guide explained the architecture design of the building was inspired by Eastern philosophy concepts.  The building overall structural plan is a rendering of an ancient ideogram meaning ‘good fortune’.  The inside featured many different rooms – living room, ceremony room, dining room, sitting room, office and more.  Much of the decor is kept in the same condition since the end of Vietnam War.  The more interesting part of the tour is when we went down to the bunker.  Dim lighting, tight space, minimal amenity.  In fact, for the president’s hideout, there is literally one twin size bed.  So where will Mrs. President sleep?!

After the tour, we hopped back on the bus to our next stop:  History Museum san history lesson.  The exhibit displayed many interesting artifacts from Vietnam and around the world.  No tour guide to direct us and a lack of display material, it was up to us to interpret the history.  So I think this might be…possibly…maybe…potentially.. what happened back in the days….?

At the conclusion of the museum, our tour guide reappeared to hand us tickets to a Water Puppet show.  This ‘puppet’ show is quite different from the common interpretation of ‘puppets’.  These puppets are controlled by performers standing in waist-deep pool of water.  A host narrated each scene in Vietnamese.  One scene consisted of two boys running around trying to catch a fish and another scene consist of a three boys fighting off a cat.  It was eye opening experience for us.  It showcased traditional Vietnamese entertainment.

The red bricked Notre Dame stood majestically in the center of Ho Chi Minh City.  It served as a good reminder of the French colonial influence.  Adjacent to the church is the Saigon Central Post Office.  This post office was designed by the famous Eiffel Tower architect, Gustave Eiffel!   How neat is it to find his design so far away!  Inside the post office was little souvenir shops tucked away by the front entrance.

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A tour wouldn’t be completed without a stop at the Ben Thanh Market.  Endless shops selling all sorts of everything!  From typical souvenirs to knock off handbags to dried fruits to teas and coffee.  It was slightly overwhelming between elbows bumping with every other shoppers and vendors inducing you to buy everything, ‘$1, only $1’.  This type of shopping requires lot of energy and strategy.  Let me brush up on my negotiation skills first!

This tour was a good introduction to the city I’ll be calling home for the next two weeks.  I can’t wait to explore what else Ho Chi Minh City has in store for us!  🙂

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