Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Walking tour of Saigon

Yesterday Josh and I decided to take a walking tour of Saigon (specifically, we were in district 1 of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), which is also known as Saigon). We hit most of the main sites to see in the city and walked a ton. Now I look like a serious tourist because I got so many blisters from my chacos that I am reduced to wearing sneakers now. Boo.

Our day started with breakfast at our hotel and then coffee at the Australian chain Gloria Jean (the Brodard Cafe is the one we are going to. Apparently it's famous. I've never heard of it). We then walked to the backpacker bit of town to start the tour. Along the way we managed to purchase plane tickets to Hanoi for tomorrow and a sim card for our cell phone (this means that theoretically you can use our google voice number to call us now). We then saw a touristy market which could have been in any city in se asia (or even HK, for that matter) and a statue of a man on a horse.

We visited the Ho Chi Minh Art Museum (mediocre but in a cool building), the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (ditto), looked at the Hotel Villa (a French building repurposed for government used), another modern government building, and then had lunch at a place which was obviously quite popular and filled with locals and foreigners alike. We also had icecream as a mid-morning snack. It's really hot here. I don't think that we could be fasting and am glad that we chose to not fast while we're traveling here.

After lunch we went to the War Remnants Museum which was a bit depressing. Americans are portrayed quite poorly in all the museums here and it is difficult as an American to look at the displays and understand where they are coming from and not get really annoyed that they are so one-sided. I am all for anti-war displays and to show people the horrors of war, but I am sure the VC were not saints either. Plus, there is no discussion of the trauma to Americans - the draft army, the problems at home, the poor way soldiers were treated when they returned home. On the other hand, it was kind of cool to see the various captured planes and helicopters and it was interesting to learn a bit more about the war.

One of my favorite things to see was a local market. We walked through it right before having ice cream and as always, that was really cool to see. I love seeing how people live. I like the history stuff and seeing the sights in guidebooks, but I also love seeing markets.

It's interesting also the things that are similar from country to country in Asia. for example, we walked past the US consulate and just like in China, there were hordes of people squatting on the sidewalk across the street from the consulate and no one on the consulate side. That alone made me look and see that yes, we were at the US Consulate. We actually were allowed to walk on the sidewalk in front of the consulate, unlike in China.

Other than all this travel, things here are going ok. We still have some outstanding bank issues that we're dealing with; I just found out that I had a paper rejected with an invitation to resubmit, which will take a lot of work to deal with; I have a skype meeting at 5 am on Tuesday and have to hope that the poached internet at the apartment in HK will work; I think I was accidentally assigned to room with a boy at the conference in HK, so I will probably commute from the apartment Josh is staying at. We also decided to try to bribe people to help us carry our excessive quantities of luggage to China - we are offering lunch in exchange for carrying our bags. Maybe it will save us a lot of hassle. Even 2 people helping would be fabulous. 4 would save us completely on excess luggage fees. Hopefully some of the other Fulbrighters will bite.

We're off to see the tunnels today as well as a temple.

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