Days 56-60 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
We arrived in HCMC on the bus about 2 pm. Grabbed the first Vinasun taxi we could see to get to the hotel as these taxis were recommended to us. Arrived at the hotel without a hitch and were shown to our ‘family room’ on the 10th floor; a huge room with two queen size beds, 2 desks, fridge, cable tv and bathroom with large bathtub – all for $50 a night with a buffet breakfast for us all. We had a great location near the Ben Thanh (Ben 10) markets and within walking distance to a large park and the Water Puppet Theatre. We could also walk easily to the popular backpacking district but were not technically in it.
The Ben Thanh market was a wet market with seafood but also meat, grains, vegetables, food stalls, clothing and souvenirs. Compared to the food markets in Cambodian and other parts of Vietnam it was very hygienic.
Our first afternoon was spent exploring the markets; walking through the local park and playing in the playground; going to the War Remnants Museum; buying Water Puppet Theatre tickets and finding a place for dinner. Unfortunately our dinner choice was quite dismal and we vowed not to go there again. The French Patisserie next door made up for it with a chocolate pastry for desert.
Our first full day in HCMC and we were on a mission to buy new Crocs for Patrick since his only shoes were thongs following the Cambodian beach Croc stealing incident. Patrick was a wonderful assist in bargaining down the price of the Crocs. When the man said “150,000 VND”, I said “100,000”. He said “120,000 VND”. I looked at Patrick and said “I like 100”. Patrick looked up with his big puppy dog eyes at the man and nodded sweetly! 100,000 VND it was!
We then walked and walked and walked some more closer to the city centre and came across the Vincom Center, a large expensive shopping complex that had a great food court in the basement. We grabbed some refreshments to keep us going and then headed over to Diamond Plaza which we discovered had a cinema on the 13th floor. We were just in time to see a 2pm screening of ‘Mars Needs Moms’ so we all saw the movie for $10 Australian. It was a great movie too. We grabbed a quick snack before heading out to the Water Puppet Theatre.
The Water Puppet Theatre cost 120,000 VND each and the show went for 45 minutes. It was a truly magical performance and like nothing we had seen before. There were live musicians/actors that played the music and spoke the lines, not that we understood the Vietnamese. I’ve included some photos, although they don’t give a true insight into the performance.
We treated ourselves to sushi at Tokyo Deli for dinner. The prices are amazing. For those that know their Japanese food and prices, Steve got a large Bento box meal for 160,000 VND ($8). Our whole meal with sake etc was about 400,000 VND ($20) and that was probably more than we needed to order. That same meal in Australian would no doubt be close to $100.
Second full day in HCMC and we caught up on homework, washing and rested. We went for a walk in the direction of the backpacker district and found another food market. Stopped in for refreshments at ABC Bakery and then back to the room in the middle of the day. Our other mission to complete in HCMC was haircuts for the boys (see the haircut post!) In the evening we walked back to the Vincom Center to find the food court. We chose Thai Express for dinner, which was ok and then grabbed some supplies for the boys’ trip to Cu Chi Tunnels the next day.
Third day in HCMC and Steve, Harris and Patrick headed out early for their bus trip to Cu Chi Tunnels (see Harris’s post!). As for me … I walked numerous kilometres to the Fashasa Bookstore that I had found online. I wondered if I was ever going to get there and then finally found it. My walk took me through an area of HCMC that very few tourists venture to as I only came across a handful of other foreigners along the way. I got asked numerous times, “Moto Madam”, because I think the motorbike drivers must have thought I was lost! The bookstore was fantastic and had a great English section with story books and workbooks. I picked up some language guides and workbooks for the boys. Two of the books for Patrick were 13,000 VND (20,000 VND = $1).
Along my walk I also found that I was in a cheap clothing district and much better prices than even the markets. I bought 3 lovely blouses for $15 and 3 pairs of earrings for $3. Stopped at a ‘Tous Le Jours’ bakery for an iced coffee and red bean pastry to refuel before walking all the way back to my hotel. My feet really needed rewarding by now so I stopped in at a local spa for a 60,000 VND ($3) pedicure! Got to love that.
We headed out for dinner at Tokyo Deli again but this time the boys brought in their own meat pies that we had found at the Crumbs bakery around the corner, which seems to be part of the Brumby’s bakery family.
Final day and we lazed around in the morning catching up on homework; some cartoons; packing bags and a last meal at Tokyo Deli before heading to the airport for our flight to Nha Trang. We arrived at the airport early so after checking in we still had 1 hour to fill in and the airport was very unexciting. Across the road from the airport was a shopping mall so we got a taxi over and found the Lego miniature figurines the boys had their sights on and some drinks before getting the free shuttle back to the airport. We needn’t have worried about getting there on time since our plane was running about 40 minutes late. When we finally got in the air, our flight was just 45 minutes long so we landed were in Nha Trang in no time … next adventure.