Highlights of Ho Chi MInh City

Well I really enjoyed Ho Chi Minh City. Not really the sightseeing part, but the everyday one. I made my list of highlights. It is not conclusive so go figure by yourself 🙂

Bến Thành Market SaigonBến Thành Market – in the heart of the city just opposite to the bus station (located on the side of huge round about by the way). I got really scared inside. The alleys between stalls are very narrow and unoccupied sellers had nothing to do but to occupy themselves with bothering us to buy something. At some point I thought they are going to rip us apart. Each one was pulling me in a different direction shouting “buy something! BUY SOMETHING!” I was so stressed out I didn’t even want to buy anything, all I wanted was to scream and run away.

It looks lovely, there is so much of colourful stock all around you feel like in a treasure cave but you don’t have a moment to take it all in as constantly someone is bothering you. And it is expensive. It’s a tourist attraction so what should one expect?! I bought some coffee in there and regretted it the moment I saw prices outside and again regretted it when I had to drink it. Maybe I’m just not big fan of Vietnamese coffee.

Outside the market there are little shops that offer prices lower than the stalls inside the place. How crazy is that? We bought there the traditional straw hats. And we also went to a local restaurant around the corner. The menu was only in Vietnamese and there were no tourist around. I didn’t want anything to eat but P. ordered a soup which he really enjoyed. Local bar in Saigon

I know we looked inside the pots and showed what we wanted. Liking soups comes really handy sometimes. At night there is a night market just outside Bến Thành. Long rows of stalls with clothes and food mainly. We got there some linen pants and blouses for the trip to Mekong Delta we planned for the next day. The pants had no pockets and the ripped apart really quickly so even though we bargained a lot I think it wasn’t worth it.

Dam Sen Water Park – 03 Hoa Binh, Ward 3, District 11. Anyone that needs to rest will find it perfect for that purpose. The taxi was horribly expensive but we were afraid we won’t get there and we couldn’t find out from our hostel hosts which bus is going there. So we paid for a taxi something really stupid and came back by bus (number 11) which was terribly cheap. The entrance was something like $5. Don’t make the same mistake I did though. Watch out when you go on Kamikaze slide. I hurt my back bone so badly it hurt me even a couple of weeks after we were back in London.

Revolutionary Museum Ho Chi Minh CityRevolutionary Museum – if it makes you laugh you can see a handkerchief some comrade was using or a camera which some picture of a famous party member was taken with and so on and so on. We know it so well from Poland. The pathos and descriptions were so demagogic you could only laugh or cry. We chose the first one. P. was trying to hold on to the bike covered with rice bags pushing it only with the handles when a member of the staff told him to put one hand on the handle and the other at the back of the bike where the rice bags were fixed. I found this very funny! What do you think? We also saw a staging of a party rally with a banner saying “Independence or death”

Hung Kings Temple – right across the entrance of the History Museum. The temple was built on Nghia Linh Mountain, there are three levels connected by stone steps. The lowest level Ha Temple (worshiping Au Ho), middle level Trung temple (worshiping the Hung Kings), the highest level Thuong temple (placing the mausoleum symbol of the Hung Kings). The Hung Kings temple is not only a beauty spot but also the site in memory of the national origin.

KIM restaurant De Tham StreetOur favourite Restaurant – KIM on De Tham Street – best food in Vietnam I have tried. And there are some pictures from Ireland! The service is maybe not the quickest and not the best but the food is worth it. We always ordered more than we could eat. Oh the sauces and fish rolls yummy.

The most amazing thing though is the traffic. Moppets, cars, pedestrians all mingling together without accidents. You just have to get a feel for it. Next post about our trip to Mekong Delta.

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White Frenzy – my trip from London on 5th Feb

And so we were having a pampering night at my friends house in East London (E16) not far from Canary Wharf. You all know that, chatting, eating, drinking and having fun. At around 10pm it started to snow making some of us very happy and the others not so much.

The irony is I was leaving London for the last time taking all my things away with me this night and the weather was looking the same as when I arrived to London in the first place. I got stuck in Dublin for one night because all airports were closed due to the snowfall.  But anyway back to the story.

So as my friend was not going to drive me to the airport and neither was her boyfriend the option was: national Express coach. Fine with me anyway 🙂 My other friends gave me a lift to West India around midnight where I wanted to take the tube to Stratford. When we got there I was afraid I won’t manage to catch the last train and went to Poplar to take DLR instead. Of course waiting there for around an hour no train came and The System was shut down without any warning or information. I was trying to figure out how to walk to Stratford in all this snow or which night bus would be going there. From years ago I thought there should be one leaving from Canning Town. You could forget about a taxi. When all public transport is down or severely delayed everyone is getting a taxi!

Then my friends called and said the other guys will drive me to Stratford. Great news! And so they did. I was at the A9 National Express stop at around 1.30am Nobody was there. The bus should have arrived in 20 minutes and as you can imagine it didn’t. They run every half an hour (20 past and 10 to). After a while more people came but still no bus. Then we saw a bus that was going to Liverpool Street, empty inside and he told us he will be coming back to Stansted in one hour but before that somebody should come. I waited there for 2 hours and in that time 2 buses came both going to Liverpool Street, nothing to Stansted. I was really cold by then.

I met a really nice guy from Equador, who now lives in Miami, but have been moving from one place to another whole of his life. We had a nice chat when he told me I look and behave as Maria who he know in Miami. He even took a picture of me to show her she has a twin in Europe. how crazy is that?

So at last half past 3 am the bus came. I was so lucky to be in a right spot. The crowd pushed me inside and I was one of 24 people who managed to get on the bus. The rest had to stay behind. I quickly fell asleep in the warmth of the seat and was woken up just before the airport. I knew the second I will get off the bus I’ll be freezing cold. And so I was. I was trembling and teeth barking while running to the toilet to put on more clothes and get warm. My eyes hurt but adrenaline was working. Will I be able to fly today or will they cancel?

It took me 50 minutes to get through security gates. The queue was reaching the entrance doors. After that I still had one hour to wait. I got a hot drink but still felt cold. There wasn’t that many cancellations when I was waiting in the lobby so my spirit was high well as high as it could be considering being exhausted and cold. The board first showed the gate number only 30 minutes before the flights departure so in theory just when it was supposed to close. I was one of the first to get there. The plane was outside and in a while some people started to queue. Quarter past   7 am when we were supposed to take off there was no member of the crew there, no information, nothing… I looked around and saw some pilots and girls in Ryanair dress code in the cafe so I approached them and asked if they knew anything. They didn’t, but told me most flights were canceled some delayed and we should ask at the information desk.

When I got there I saw a man  frustrated with the service he was getting as his plane was canceled and he was supposed to get back to main hall to get more information from Ryanair staff. He had to go back through emergency doors and they didn’t have anyone to show him the way. Anyway when it was my turn the woman was so stressed out that I could feel her resistance before I even opened my mouth. I can’t honestly say I blame her. She knew nothing, they were short staffed and we just had to wait. And so we did. I was sitting and my eyes were so painful I couldn’t keep them open. When I closed them I felt I won’t be able to open them again. I had to be able to do it in case I had to act fast if the flight was canceled. My mind knew my body was supposed to be alert, but the body refused constantly drifting into sleep. I suppose it was because of the alcohol I drunk that night and the night before. I got cold much more easily and I didn’t get much sleep as well.

After 8 am they let us on board. I went straight to the back of the plane where I met one of the polish crew members. She was coming from Stratford as well and had to take a taxi. She told me that after the bus I took came there was no service for another hour. I was so lucky to get on that bus! She also said they were considering closing down the airport. It stopped snowing long time ago by then, the snow was maybe ankle high. Why shouldn’t we take off then? Somebody told me a story from earlier this morning that the passengers waited three hours inside the plane just to find out it was canceled in the end. I hoped it wouldn’t happen to us. I mean in Poland they know how to handle snow and if the make Stansted ready everything should be alright.

We waited until 10:30 am to take off. I was so happy we did I just couldn’t listen to a guy from Warsaw complaining all the time. There was only 1/3 of passengers and three or four people came to the back to lie down. Instead they were chatting, complaining, boasting how it would never happen in Poland and so on…

When we broke through the clouds there was the most beautiful view. This is why I love flying. You can see the fields of white, the enormous space of blue sky and strong sun making it all seem less bad. I was so joyful. I was happy because I left London and didn’t have to worry about re booking my flight, getting back, arranging place to stay. I was on the way again, between places, free.

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