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Old 10th November 2019, 02:32 PM   #16
yflyer
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In the evening, we visited Ho Chi Minh Square...





...a large public space flanked by Ho Chi Minh City Hall at one end...



...and the famous Rex Hotel on one side.



This was a busy area, with lots of shops and eateries still open late into the evening.

The well known Cafe Apartment: what was previously an apartment block had turned, over the years, into floor after floor of cafes and shops...



And not far off, the Opera House, a smaller scale version of the Paris Opera...


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Old 10th November 2019, 02:44 PM   #17
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Tourist attractions aside, we also took the time to walk around the city on our own, just to get a sense of the place...



The streets of Saigon were very lively...



Crossing the street was something of an art that had to be mastered, even at designated crossings...



And how about crossing the street at places other than traffic lights? Forget about it! No chance for anyone who is not a local to do this safely!

Along the streets, it was common to see people on small plastic tools having a snack or a drink with friends, chatting and passing time...



This was also a green city...



...with many lush public parks...



We walked from the Fusion Suites to the nearest local supermarket, which was about a 15 minute walk away...



When travelling to a foreign country, it was always interesting to visit a local supermarket, to see what people bought and ate...



Some brands were familiar, others not so much...



Some of the fresh meat and seafood available were quite eye-opening, including some items, such as silkworms ("Nhong") which didn't quite fit either category...


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Old 10th November 2019, 03:00 PM   #18
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It was also safe enough in the city to head out for walks in the evening.



Everywhere we went, there was this juxtaposition of old and new...



There was a lively street scene...





...and something of an outdoor cafe culture as well...



...although these days it may be less about people watching than staring at your smartphone screen...

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Old 10th November 2019, 03:11 PM   #19
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Saigon has its modern side...



From skyscrapers...



...to multi-lane highways...



...and gleaming office towers and malls...



We spent some time exploring one of these malls, Saigon Centre...



...which had a large Takashimaya Department Store.



While items on sale at Ben Thanh market were a steal by Singapore standards, international goods and brands on sale at Takashimaya and at outlets inside Saigon Centre were more expensive than the same products sold in Singapore, typically 15-25% more costly. I wondered who could afford to buy these branded goods there. I certainly wouldn't have paid those prices for that merchandise!

There was also a gourmet supermarket in the basement of Saigon Centre, where a very nice selection of fine foods and fresh produce from all over the world could be found.


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Old 10th November 2019, 03:15 PM   #20
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There was a large McDonalds outlet next to the Central Post Office in Saigon.



Apart from McD's worldwide standard menu items, the menu here was highly localised...



...to include items such as pork burgers and rice dishes...



...and McD's version of Vietnamese Coffee!



There was also at least one Starbucks in Saigon...



...although I wondered why anyone would go there when there was such wonderful local Vietnamese Drip Coffee...

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Old 10th November 2019, 03:36 PM   #21
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One objective that Mrs yflyer and I had for this trip was to head out for an authentic bowl of Pho.

The wonderful staff at the Fusion Suites recommended Pho Hoa Pasteur, an old favourite place for Pho, which was a short car ride away.



This was a simple streetside eatery...



...which specialised in one thing and one thing only: Multiple variations of delicious beef and meat with Pho noodles...



It didn't take long for us to decide on 2 bowls of "12. Combination All Kinds of Beef", and a few minutes later, two large, steaming bowls of pho were placed in front of us, both of which were chock full of different cuts of beef...



What a heavenly sight!

Before tucking in, we piled on loads of vegetable toppings, from mint leaves to bean sprouts fresh squeezed lime...



I dug in with my chopsticks...



...mmmmm....incredible...I thought the breakfast pho at the Fusion Suites was good, but this was just at another level...the stock had a richness and flavour that made the Fusion Suites version seem bland by comparison. This was seriously good pho!

To be continued!

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Old 7th December 2019, 10:55 AM   #22
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Continuing with the TR...

After our noodle dinner at Pho Hoa Pasteur, we decided to head to a bar, The Alley. This was just over 2km away. Although taxi’s or Grab were a possibility, we decide to take a night-time walk to The Alley which was located quite near Saigon Square.

It was a pleasant walk along quiet, but not quite deserted, streets of late night Saigon. Thanks to Google Maps, we were never far off-course, although the address was not that straightforward to locate.



As the name implied, this bar really was down a narrow alley…



We were welcomed inside…



This was an intimate venue…



The bar counter was full, so decided to sit on the small upper level, which gave us a great view of the goings-on downstairs…



The menu was an extensive list of classic cocktails and wines…



… as well as several signature cocktails…



...which we sampled…



Fusion Gimlet…



Some very creatively presented cocktails here…



These were excellent cocktails, mixed to a standard as good as anywhere in the world…

There was also an interesting Mezcal and Tequila selection…



I could not resist a shot...


Last edited by yflyer; 7th December 2019 at 02:36 PM..
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Old 7th December 2019, 11:10 AM   #23
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On one of our morning walks from our hotel, we chanced upon the War Remnants Museum…



Outside, displays of mostly ex-US military hardware, including an F-5 Tiger (above), and an M48 tank…



Helicopters, including this Bell UH-1…



And also this twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook…



…and a Douglas Skyraider…



…and ordnance...a whole lot of ordnance.



…described in excruciating detail…



And all that was outside the museum.

Inside, more ordnance…

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Old 7th December 2019, 11:11 AM   #24
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There was weaponry…



Wreckage (In this case part of a B-52)…



As well as photos.



The photo selection included some of the most iconic Vietnam war photos, images etched into all our collective memories: young girl running without clothes after surviving an attack, Vietcong suspect executed by pistol in the street by a policeman. I must have seen those photos many times over the years, but they still retained their ability to shock, especially when viewed in the context of this museum.

Quite incongruously, the walls also proudly advertised the museum’s status as a top attraction on TripAdvisor…



The horrors of war were quite explicitly highlighted in this museum, and some tragic stories were told within these walls, however ultimately the tone was reconciliatory.





There were both local and foreign visitors to the museum, from both sides of the conflict, and hard lessons for everyone to take home from their visit.

Last edited by yflyer; 8th December 2019 at 07:14 AM..
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Old 7th December 2019, 11:24 AM   #25
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Mrs yflyer had booked us a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels, getting there via River Boat. It was also possible to get there by road, but it was a far longer road journey. The boat ride would be much more scenic.

We boarded our river boat by the harbour in the city.



This was a small but very comfortable vessel, with a roof to protect from the sun. Needless to say, safety precautions were observed, and we all wore life jackets.



We soon left the city behind us…



…and we navigated up the river past other vessels and small settlements…



As this was a long boat ride, there were snacks and drinks onboard…





It was also possible to get to the tunnels via coach, but that would have been a much longer drive. The boat ride was quite scenic and very comfortable.

By late morning, our river boat finally arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels…





At the entrance to this historical site (I can't bring myself to call this place a "local attraction" or worse still, "tourist attraction", given what had to be endured here by both defender and attacker...) was a small exhibition, with more war artifacts...



…and an educational presentation...



Visitors were free to walk through the various tunnel exhibits, which had been turned into something quite visitor-friendly -- maybe a little too visitor friendly.



This had become a very sanitised, almost park-like facility, quite different from a gritty untouched historical site.


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Old 7th December 2019, 11:53 AM   #26
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We were invited to check-out an observation hole for the attraction’s iconic photo...



Visitors took turns to climb into, and be covered up inside, this observation hole.



Claustrophobics would probably have a tough time at this attraction.

Elsewhere, stations had been set up to educate and inform visitors of different parts of the tunnel facility, as well as the different traps set up for the enemy, with the operation of the different trap mechanisms demonstrated with some gusto by a helpful staff member (No volunteers from the audience required).





There was a shooting range…



...where one could purchase live ammunition…



…and try their hand at target practice at the shooting range, and judging by the sound of loud gunfire echoing around the area, this was quite a popular activity.



The other highlight was a walk through an “actual” tunnel…



I use inverted commas because these tunnels had apparently been slightly enlarged in order to fit foreign tourists...



It was just a dark tunnel, but these things are all in the head. Some visitors had a hard time. Some decided they didn’t want to go in.



For our kids, going through the tunnel was an experience.



Of course back then, for the locals there, it was life or death.

We learnt later that there are actually two Cu Chi tunnel sites which are open to visitors and tourists. Ours was the more toned-down version, whereas I have heard that the other one makes fewer concessions to visitors for the sake of greater authenticity. That said, with family in tow, I think the site we visited gave us enough of an idea of what life in those terrifying days must have been like.

Afterwards, we had a lunch of local Vietnamese fare at the riverside restaurant before the return boat ride to Saigon.


Last edited by yflyer; 15th December 2019 at 02:31 PM..
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Old 7th December 2019, 11:59 AM   #27
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Back in Saigon, we dined at two notable local restaurants.

The first was dinner at Cuc Gach…



This was beautifully decorated former residence, with a small garden and fish ponds leading inside…



There was a very homely, local feel to the décor…



We began with beer and a local lemongrass beverage…



Our meal comprised a selection of delicious local dishes to share, with rice…



This was a wonderful meal. Highlights included wonderfully crisp and savoury soft shelled crabs…



…and desserts including a local jelly…



…and banana fritters…



A wonderful, and very authentic, meal for a very reasonable price considering the superb quality of the cuisine.
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Old 7th December 2019, 12:08 PM   #28
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We also dined at Dong Pho, a well known restaurant in the city, which served both Vietnamese and French fare…



There was a small shaded outdoor courtyard...



...and large French/European dining room, done in bright colours…





The tome-like pictorial menu had sections for both French and Vietnamese cuisine…





Local beer and iced coffee…



Rice rolls…





Vietnamese style escargot -- delicious!



A very satisfying glass noodle dish with eel…



Seafood fritters…

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Old 7th December 2019, 12:11 PM   #29
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Delectable frogs’ leg, plump and tender...



French style pastry with mushroom…



There were both local and Western desserts…

Some of the local dessert selections...





There was a great selection of gelato…







A beautiful selection of French/Continental desserts...





We had a great meal here -- highly recommended!

Last edited by yflyer; 15th December 2019 at 02:38 PM..
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Old 7th December 2019, 01:22 PM   #30
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Beautiful! Time to revisit Saigon I think. Thanks for sharing!
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