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RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling Indiaís Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling Indiaís Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

Old May 9, 15, 11:13 am
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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon),
Vietnam


We had three pleasant days within Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City isnít about seeing world famous landmarks, even though history fans have a lot to see and explore. Instead, itís about tasting, smelling and experiencing the sights and sounds of life on the street. Having had some busy work schedules, and a long trip ahead of us, we didnít attempt to cram in every attraction, sight or tour. Instead, we took the slower pace approach, and tried to settle into the city during our time here.

Ho Chi Minh City is full of older buildings and colonial area structures that were left over from the French.

From an easy walk from our hotel in the Dong Khoi area, we walked to the Notre Dame Catherdal. Itís a major stop on the tourist circuit as one of the largest European styled churches in Asia.







Immediately across the street, is the beautiful yellow Saigon post office. Itís unique as inside, itís got maps of old Saigon. It also has a wicket style window that is reminiscent of old communist style offices (think heavy on staff space), with different counters for different things.











Another interesting sight was the Reunification Palace. This was previously the seat of government in South Vietnam. The North crashed tanks through the front gates, which was well covered by photo journalism, prompting in part a massive US led evacuation of Saigon. Although a 70ís era building, I found the visit to be quite steeped in modern history.





The Reunification Palace included the seventies war rooms used to communicate, helicopter escapes, red circles where bombs previously struck, and a little bit of history in the basement.









There were lots of other general buildings around, that made the city an interesting place to wander around for a few days.









Along with the old history is the contrast of contemporary Ho Chi Minh. This means the Lotus Flower building with a skyline bar and itís own helicopter pad on the 51st floor. It had great views from the top, although this concept hasnít caught on yet since there we were the only visitors having a $10 beer on a weekday at 3 PM.







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Old May 9, 15, 11:21 am
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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon),
Vietnam continued...


No trip to Asia is complete for MrsWT73 without a visit to the market. Ho Chi Minhís market is the Ben Thang Market just west of Dong Khoi. She prefers the goods, whereas I went for the food. There were reports of theft and purse snatchers (Lonely Planet) and bad taxis (Lonely Planet and the hotel concierge) around but we didnít have any trouble, or see any surly looking characters. We also didn't get approached by anyone either offering us rides.





Any chef, or "home cook" as Gordon Ramsey likes to call them, would have enjoyed exploring the food that the market had to offer. I spent a good amount of time wandering the stalls while MrsWT73 evaluated the purses and other souvenirs available. We managed to make it away with "only one small bag" and some ceramics that miraculously made it the rest of the way around the world without breaking.















One of the wonderful parts of Saigon is the outdoor scene. Itís easy to miss if you rush from sight to sight. Instead, itís happening all around you. Many people eat, sell and conduct their wares outside. Itís pretty neat to photograph, and just take in as a general experience.



















If eating street food isnít your thing, maybe a puppy to take home?

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Old May 9, 15, 11:26 am
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Nha Hang Ngon
160 Pasteur, Phong Ben Nghe,
Quan 1, TP. Ho Chi Minh
Restaurant.


Based on a recommendation from the Lonely Planet, and a reconnaissance walk by, we ended up at Nha Hang Ngon for dinner. The meal was the most memorable one of our visit to Ho Chi Minh. There were mostly tourists dining here, but not tourists of the coach tour group variety. Rather, it was more of a crowd or adventurous travellers between 35-50 years of age.





All the dining is alfresco style, with a few tables contained under cover inside the property. Indeed, the restaurant itself is massive, with probably 200+ seats, and you could spend quite a bit of time wandering around. Food is cooked at various stations around the restaurant, but you can only order from wait staff.

We started off with a traditional Vietnamease Pancake Ė fresh fresh fillings.



I was eating light tonight and went with the Chili Salt Wings, cooked perfectly, accompanied with cucumber and lime. It had just the right amount of spice.



We accompanied this with the local Vietnamese wine. It was actually no worse than Como Sur or any other lower tier mass produced wine available from Chile, Australia etcÖ It's been hit and miss on the domestic wines around the world, but this was far better than The Great Wall from China. It was a definite ďhave againĒ.



We enjoyed the meal (and bottle of wine) for the inflated tourist price of 524,000 Vdng, or $24.27 USD for a meal for two with appetizers, a bottle of wine and all taxes. Talk about value! Truth be told, we came back again a second evening it was so good. Itís a must visit if you happen to pass through Saigon. The walk to and from the restaurant and the historic town buildings through the Saigon night was pretty good as well.







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Old May 9, 15, 1:51 pm
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Your pics of Saigon are amazing. And puppies ^

I commend your adventurous stomach. My parents were born and raised in Vietnam (left during the war), but when they went back to visit Vietnam they were extremely careful to eat only things that that had been cooked / rinsed in boiling water.
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Old May 9, 15, 3:28 pm
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Wow, great pictures!
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Old May 9, 15, 9:34 pm
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Thanks for sharing, can't wait for the rest of the TR.
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Old May 10, 15, 3:27 am
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Awesome TR thanks.

I have a trip to Vietnam in the summer and am really looking forward to 3 days in Saigon, this has wet my appetite. Thanks.
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Old May 10, 15, 3:49 am
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post
If eating street food isnít your thing, maybe a puppy to take home?

Glad I didnīt see this!
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Old May 10, 15, 7:38 am
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Glad I didnīt see this!
When I was in Hanoi in December 2014, I did a street food tour, the guide who was awesome, offered to take me to the village in the north of Hanoi City that served dog meat.

Just wondering if this was a new pet, or fresh meat stand?

Feeling squeemish just thinking about it
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Old May 11, 15, 9:48 pm
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If eating street food isn’t your thing, maybe a puppy to take home?
That ain't to take home as a pet!
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Old May 12, 15, 4:14 am
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Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
When I was in Hanoi in December 2014, I did a street food tour, the guide who was awesome, offered to take me to the village in the north of Hanoi City that served dog meat.

Just wondering if this was a new pet, or fresh meat stand?

Feeling squeemish just thinking about it
We were talking to some local teens/early 20's at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. They joked to us about eating dogs. Obviously was a source of amusement to them to joke about it. They were delighted to talk to some Aussies and ask us about our favourite foods.

Loved your Vietnam pics, especially the buildings at night.
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Old May 13, 15, 8:54 pm
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Originally Posted by flyingeph12 View Post
Your pics of Saigon are amazing. And puppies ^

I commend your adventurous stomach. My parents were born and raised in Vietnam (left during the war), but when they went back to visit Vietnam they were extremely careful to eat only things that that had been cooked / rinsed in boiling water.
Thanks flyingeph12. We didn't actually have any trouble in Vietnam with food cleanliness. We ate at hotel restaurants and commercial restaurants (with tables) but not immediately off the street. We didn't have any issues and found almost all food to be quite tasty.

Originally Posted by lewende View Post
Wow, great pictures!
Thanks lewende ^

Originally Posted by mromalley View Post
Thanks for sharing, can't wait for the rest of the TR.
Thanks mromalley, more just around the corner.

Originally Posted by dewby View Post
Awesome TR thanks.

I have a trip to Vietnam in the summer and am really looking forward to 3 days in Saigon, this has wet my appetite. Thanks.
The most interesting thing that I found dewby was that this was the land of opportunity. There was a developing middle class (by local standards) around Ho Chi Minh which meant that it wasn't as second world as I might have imagined. Best of luck on your upcoming trip.

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Glad I didnīt see this!
I got the impression offerendum that these were "pet" puppies. The motorbike was unattended, and not parked anywhere near food was being served. Having said that, the bike driver might have stopped on his way to something more malicious.

Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
When I was in Hanoi in December 2014, I did a street food tour, the guide who was awesome, offered to take me to the village in the north of Hanoi City that served dog meat.

Just wondering if this was a new pet, or fresh meat stand?

Feeling squeemish just thinking about it
Originally Posted by mackerel View Post
That ain't to take home as a pet!
Ahh adampenrith & mackerel, the sad reality of Asia (and other parts of the world). Unlike China, we didn't see the usual insectoids for sale at the night market, nor offers of dog / cat or other strange critters on the menu. It's possible that these may have been served, but it surely wasn't evident at this puppy cart location, or at other markets we stopped through in Vietnam which consisted of duck and ratty chickens. This was the only cart that I saw. Perhaps lower than normal demand? Aside from that, I got the impression that everything was possibly for sale.

Originally Posted by Annalisa12 View Post
We were talking to some local teens/early 20's at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. They joked to us about eating dogs. Obviously was a source of amusement to them to joke about it. They were delighted to talk to some Aussies and ask us about our favourite foods.

Loved your Vietnam pics, especially the buildings at night.
It wouldn't surprise me Annalisa12 - I think any food goes in Asia in general. I didn't get the substitution "sense" like I do in China- that type where you wonder exactly what you're eating. Instead, I was pretty comfortable with all the foods and pho that was ordered. No surprises during our visit (that we knew of).
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Old May 13, 15, 9:11 pm
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Luxury Mekong Delta Speedboat Tour
Les Rives - Authentic River Experience
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

We got out of the city on our last day for a day trip to the Mekong Delta. We booked with Les Rives, after a recommendation from a fellow Flyertalk Member and some favorable reviews from Trip Advisor. Les Rives mostly delivered on what was offered, and I'd describe it as a "very good" shared tour.

We were picked up at the Sheraton and taken by regular public taxi with our guide over to the boat launch. The streets were packed with motorcycles.



We boarded our boat and headed up stream. There are speed limited sections of the river so it wasnít an express trip by any means. The river itself was a working river. Translation: it was filthy. Itís to be expected I guess. It was full of boats, worm fishing, and local shipping going up and down. There were many shacks along the side of the river. We were told by our guide that by Vietnam law, everyone owned the rivers, making eviction impossible. This has led to squatters building residences on the sides of the rivers.











According to our guide, this guy makes $50 a day worm fishing by diving in this goop.



Our first visit on our tour was to a traditional Buddist Temple. It wasnít really much different than any other Buddist temple, other than it was on the shores of one the Mekong Delta rivers. We almost got left behind here as our boat was preparing to depart with us still on land. There were 3 other boats belonging to the same Les Rives group so it wasnít a tragedy, but it was probably a bit embarrassing for the tour guide.





Our next stop was a visit to a local market. Although not a floating market, there were several live chickens and ducks available for an instant kill. There were also traditional Vietnamese vegetables (basil, coriander, chive, mint) available for purchase. We were also explained the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs. Haircuts were also available for $1 US.





















Upstream, we ventured into the Thu Tua area of the Mekong along one of the adjacent canals. This part of the trip was a good experience to see the local life and communities of farmers. There were no real streets, a few motorcycle paths and trails and quiet serenity all around.









We went for a group walk to visit a ďrichĒ farmer. He was ďrichĒ since he had a house and several chickens and ducks. He also happened to own a Burmese python. Pretty much not every day you get to see a python, let alone one that plays with children.





Apparently, if youíre caught getting constricted, you need to break off the tail of the snake since itís the most sensitive area of the animal. James Bond and spy superstar fans can tuck that piece of knowledge away until they find themselves in a similar situation. (It hasnít happened to me since Iíve learned this information).

Land and houses are passed from generation to generation so itís conceivable that you can have several generations of family living in one house.

We traveled up stream for a Mekong whisky tasting. I was one of two that were brave enough to try. It was actually quite a lot like Japanese Sake. This was set in a spartan ďbarĒ that was nestled in a farming area of tapioca trees.





We traveled upstream to the next village. It was a traditional village that was back in time. It reminded me of the smaller places in Myanmar that we had visited a few years ago.











We had lunch at an orphanage. We got to sample some Elephant Ear fish. The fish seemed to have nothing to do with elephants, but as a white fish, it was quite tasty.



After the late lunch, we started on the return trek back. We saw more river home sights on the way.





The trip was an interesting insight into the Mekong Delta life. It was a lot more like guided transport to each area than an actual explained tour. Nevertheless, it was a nice break from noise, skyscrapers and broken sidewalks as a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City.
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Old May 13, 15, 10:01 pm
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Yikes. Check out the size of that snake. It's huge.

Great trip report. Thanks.
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Old May 13, 15, 10:14 pm
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Originally Posted by Annalisa12 View Post
Yikes. Check out the size of that snake. It's huge.
Agreed. I would have been freaking out. *shudder*

Another great installment overall!
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