Hope everyone is doing OK. We're now in Ho Chi Minh City or the old Saigon and having a blast.
We got here Monday and have been so busy sightseeing, visiting family and friends and I barely have time to sit back and gather my thoughts. We're staying at the Elios Hotel right in the heart of this throbbing City. The hotel is new, very nice and clean. It has wifi in the room and the rooftop breakfast buffet is extensive. They will fry you eggs and serve you the noodle soup (pho) upon request. I love to sit by the window drinking coffee and gazing out at the city below.
We pay $80 a night but down the street a little bit, high rollers can check in $400 a night hotel and backpackers can find rooms for as little as $20 a night. Streets are packed with coffee shops, night clubs, stores and restaurants. The park in front of our hotel is one of many areas in the city where flower vendors are allowed to set up their stands for Tet festival and the sight, sound and scent are just wonderful. Around the city, government buildings and major street are decorated with banners, flowers and colorful lights. Everything is just so festive.
Dragon Fruit Plants
Tuesday, January 29, 2008:
Our friend, Thu Ba, met us at the hotel lobby and we rode a cab around the City. Almost 9 million people live here and it seems they all own motorbikes and are going somewhere at the same time. This mass of humanity can be suffocating at first until you learn to relax by sitting back and enjoying the scenery and people. Sidewalk cafes are great places to do that.
Walking across the streets is unnerving and driving is impossible. If you think you could drive in Saigon , I had posted a little clip on YouTube for you to rethink http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY5muhHpFSo. Our first stop was the main market, Ben Thanh, where we met up with Lee's aunt and her husband.
Ben Thanh Market - Chom Chom Seller
Hotel Elios Lobby
Ben Thanh Market - Candies Section
Ben Thanh Market - Shoes Section
From there we shopped and went to see different places including governmental buildings, my old home, neighborhood and school. For lunch, we went to "The Tib", a restaurant where President Bush had dined a few months earlier. We visited with the owner who is also the sister of a very famous Vietnamese composer, Trinh Cong Son. She gave Lee souvenirs of CD and books.
Lee and Trinh Cong Son's sister at The Tib Restaurant
We also went by Lee's old house in a different section of Saigon and it just so happened that the owner was home and she invited us in for a visit. Lee was a little emotional stepping inside the house. The new owner bought the house in 2003 and real estate price has been skyrocketing since and the home is now worth about $2.5 million. She's fixed up the house real nicely and we had great visit.
At the Cathedral
Lee and her aunt in front of Lee's old home
Lee at her old home
In the evening, my brother-in-law and his son came to our hotel to visit. We agreed to meet for dinner the next evening. I asked him to invite some of our close acquaintances to dinner even though I barely remember any of them. Wednesday to Friday:There are just way too many things we did and saw to go into details so I am just going to post some pics with captions for you to enjoy.
Van Thai Resort
Van Thai Resort
Saigon at night
Dinner with my relatives
Saigon at night
Flowers are everywhere
Everywhere you go
Viet Nam is a great place to visit especially during Tet. Our trip has been wonderful as we were able to see many great special places. I can't end this blog without thanking Thu Ba and her husband, Trien, for their hospitality. Thu Ba traveled with and guided us most of the way and she and Trien invited us to their home for dinner and took us out on the town. Let's hope they come to the US soon so Lee and I can show them our Texas-size welcome.
We are leaving Saigon tonight to head back to the states. I have a feeling that we will be coming back to this land soon but for now, I am looking forward to getting back. I cannot wait to pick Julian up and hold him tight. Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. So long everyone.