Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vietnam: More from Ho Chi Minh City

The following day, I decided to take it slow. I wanted to get away from the pulsating beat of orderly disorder that characterized Saigon. So I booked myself on a trip to the Mekong River that would take me one and a half-hours outside Saigon to the city of My Tho and Ben Tre Province. The van passed by for me at my hotel at 8:00 a.m. and we were back in Saigon’s urban chaos exactly at 5:30 p.m. I'll discuss that in a later entry.

Back in Hồ Chí Minh City, as soon as I stepped down the van, I rushed back to my hotel to change and drop off my stuff since I wanted to catch the 6:30 p.m. water puppet performance. I took a cab from my hotel to the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre to catch one of Vietnam's cultural symbols. It was a brief 50-minute show which is a must visit for culture vultures like myself.

I realized I had been so stingy like always that I had a lot of funds left. So I decided to check out the Vietnamese restaurant my hotel recommended called Hoang Yen Restaurant. I had minced meat soup, spring rolls and chicken wings. It wasn’t as cheap as what you’d get from hawkers or hole-in-the-wall establishments. In fact, it wasn't even close! But it’s worth a try if you have some extra money to spend.

From the restaurant, I walked to the Ho Chi Minh City Hall to check out this wonderful work of art well lit at night. The intricate detail of this charming French colonial government building never fails to enchant me, even more when it is lit up in the evening.

I didn't stay too long since I had wanted to sleep early. But a college friend, who I met in the plane on the way to HCMC, sent me a message that we meet up. So it was another night at Allez Boo (this time I downed a bottle of Saigon beer and a pizza). But we decided to go around and we moved to Gossip to check out the clubbing scene. It seemed the young, rich and trendiest of HCMC were all there on a Wednesday night. It was one big parteee!

The next day, I woke up early for some last minute shots around HCMC before my flight back to Manila. I got myself a xe om (motorbike for hire) for an hour to take me around District 1.

Of course, I dropped by the Ho Chi Minh City Hall again and the nearby Saigon Opera House. I watched as the city woke up with joggers and old folks doing their morning rituals; and motorbikes started to increase in number. But I didn’t have that much time since I had to be at the airport by 8 a.m.

I wish I had more time to explore. But at least I got back to Manila in one piece since I felt that I was in the middle of a giant traffic accident waiting to happen. If there’s a next time, I definitely will rent my own motorbike and join the fun!

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.
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