Friday, January 30, 2009

January 16th Afternoon and Evening

After returning from the ceremony, we returned to the Palace Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Traversing the streets and traffic reminded me of the video game “Frogger” only ten times more intense. Getting across any street was an adventure since you had to look both ways even on a one way street and sometimes even on the sidewalk where and occasional motor bike would whiz by.

Our hotel was right across from an area being prepared for Tet – Asian New Year – and it would have been a great spot to be in about 9 more nights. The area being decorated for the event was a “Times Square” corporation or so the sign said so.

After a small snack, we headed out to the Reunification Palace. On the way we were “accosted” by a vendor who had previously assisted us in crossing two busy streets. He “forced” us to buy a coconut drink from him but for the price and coldness of the drink, it was well worth it on this hot day. This building was once the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and also the site of the official handover of power during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. It was then known as Independence Palace, and an NVA (North Vietnamese Army) tank crashed through its gates. These tanks still remain on display in the courtyard today. There are many meeting rooms in the palace and the Conference Hall in the main room is still being used for important national events.

We left the palace and headed back to the hotel. We detoured to a quaint Italian restaurant where we had ice cream and drinks. It is still hard getting used to paying so little for so much. Two dishes of ice cream with 3 scoops each and 2 soft drinks for less than $7.00 including tip.

Back at the hotel, the phone rang and it was my IBM friend – Bao Anh. She had been trying to contact me since we landed in Saigon. I had sent her a text message but it was never received. But, luckily we got together and met. We went to the Rex Hotel rooftop bar with Bao Anh’s friend Phuong Vo and enjoyed the views of Saigon.

It was nice to finally meet someone who I have been corresponding with for the past 18 months. We returned to the Palace Hotel, made plans for the next day and said good night. It would be nice to have a local with us as we would head to the Ben Thanh Market, a Ho Chi Minh City landmark.

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