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Vietnam: 4~Out ‘n’ about in the land of mopeds

First full day in this hot, busy, noisy, colourful, fascinating country. By the end of it I had made the transition from feeling unsettled at being thrust into such a foreign environment (for me) to feeling relatively relaxed and at ease.

An early morning procession of monks past my hotel

A reasonable sleep helped this (despite the lack of aircon) followed by a spot of exercise in the ‘fitness centre’, and breakfast featuring toast with NZ butter! I was then keen to get out and about.

The colourful clutter of neighbouring buildings

First stop was the Ben Thanh markets – a huge mostly indoors place full of stalls. You name it, it’s there. Was interesting walking through the food sections – you can betcha I left those offerings well alone. I am not what you would call adventurous with food. (Unless, say, it is to do with creative applications of chocolate.)

Outside stalls at the Ben Thanh Market

Then I had intended to go to the War Remnants museum but before I got there I came across the Reunification Palace and had enough time to look through it before it closed for an hour or two around lunchtime (as many places do). Very interesting place and history. I will make a separate post on this.

Just like the traffic, the power lines were also congested chaos

It was a constant surging sea of scooters

I definitely saw more scooters on this day than I would have seen in several lifetimes back home.

It's the logical step if you run out of hands I guess

My friend coffee, it had only been a day or two but I missed you

I decided that it might be best to tackle the museum first thing in the morning so instead just moseyed around. Found the main post office – a big grand thing, as these places often are, and something of a tourist hub. Over the road is the Notre Dame cathedral – a bit run down, but definitely fitting the traditional cathedral image.

The beautiful post office building. It's equally impressive inside.

Saigon's Notre-Dame Basilica

Inside the cathedral

A statue of the Virgin Mary stands in front of the cathedral

I concluded that it can be hard not buying stuff from hawkers, especially when they’re children. If you sit down in a public space, be prepared to be pestered. They’re pretty insistent too, sometimes you just have to get up and walk away to get some peace. Although… upon leaving the hotel that morning I was immediately accosted by a cyclo rider. After conveying “no, I want to walk” and walking off, he nonetheless pedalled after me. That strategy didn’t work for him either.

Downtown Saigon masked by haze

There was a surprising amount of greenery and it helped balance the 'citiness'

Dinner was in the hotel restaurant again – not on the roof this time as it was quite windy. However, unlike dear Wellington in the winter I left behind, this wind was very warm!

* * * * * *
This is part of a series recounting my July 2009 trip to Vietnam. For the starting point and some background go here.

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