30 May 2008

the heat is on in saigon - part 2

it was hot when we started our second day in ho chi minh. we woke up early and availed ourselves of the free breakfast at the hotel. outside, several tourists were boarding buses and vans to take them off to different sorts of tours. we were torn between the mekong delta whole day tour and the cu chi tunnel half-day tour. seeing as we were in the company of people itching to take pictures and the second tour was a lot cheaper than the first one, we soon found ourselves aboard a van with several other tourists bound for the tunnels.

it was almost a two hour drive to our destination, we spent it clicking away at whatever things we saw on the road. there was little conversation. i, for one, still had some sleep to catch up on. the only sound we heard was the conversation between the australian lady and canadian guy in the first row. they didn't stop talking until the van stopped at a handicrafts store (i think it was a required stop for all tours, by the number of tourists there).

guess what they had on the store: lacquerware! during my previous trip in myanmar, the chillis and i were shown how these things were made. and i appreciated the time and patience it took to make just one piece. in the store, everything was shiny, and pretty and colorful. you'd be tempted to buy a lot of things. the friendly (and talkative) australian lady told me before we left, she took pictures of the things she wanted to buy in the store when she got rich. her plan was to return to vietnam and buy everything and have them all shipped back home. not this time, she said. she was on a backpacking tour of the country for three weeks and she didn't plan on lugging around a lot of stuff.
when we got to the tunnels, it was almost lunch and it was hot! the tour started with a fifteen minute video that was probably made in the sixties, narrating how cu chi was a quiet little village where the city people spent their vacations. and how the war from the "evil Americans" drove turned their farmers into guerrilas. they created these intricate underground tunnels to hide (obviously) from the "enemy". and guess what? the people actually lived there. they cooked, the slept, they transported supplies and medicine to other towns, all within the tunnels.

it took about two hours to go around the "jungles". we were invited to try getting into the tunnels to get a feel of what it was like to stay there. i attempted to get into them, but seeing the cramped, musty, almost airless environment of the tunnel, i was overcome with claustrophobia (which i seriously thought i didn't have). i bailed out. three people from our group eventually made it out of the 50 metre walk.

after the tour, we were all sleepy and exhausted, not to mention hungry. we were dropped off near ben thanh market, where we proceeded to scour the area for food. we settled on traditional pho noodles, from pho 24. it's a vietnamese fast food chain, with branches in singapore and manila. since i've never tried it before (in singapore AND manila), this is as good place as any to check it out. it's vietnamese food in vietnam, regardless if it's fast food.

we all agreed to go around the market for an hour. seriously? for girls, an hour of shopping inside a greenhills-like market is clearly not possible. make it two hours. or three. when we finished spending our dhongs, we went back to the hotel to freshen up and lay down our purchases. by the time we went back out, it was drizzling.

we were going to walk around the town again, and i prepared myself by buying a plastic raincoat. my friends were teasing me about it. but i had the last laugh. by the time we got to the notre dame cathedral (again), it was raining hard. my friends had no choice but to buy raincoats themselves. this is how we looked like:

it didn't stop raining for about two hours. the boys had wanted to setup their tripods in front of the committee building to get some night shots. it didn't look like it was going to be accomplished. i consoled myself with a picture of the opera house.and then we found a little restaurant, where, in disappointment about the weather, we had a little feast. we stuffed ourselves with rice noodles and dumplings and everything else on the menu.

but after the meal, we were delighted to find the rain had stopped. we proceeded to the committee building, where the boys finally set up their tripods and had their photoshoot. here's one cool shot*

our last stop for the night was a little club called 'seventeen', where we had beer, and listened to hard rock songs by a band whose singers banged their heads so hard, it was almost painful to watch.

in the morning, we only had a couple of hours before we went to the airport to catch our flight. my last memory of vietnam, is their great coffee.

in a few hours, we were back in singapore. i went straight to the office an hour after the plane landed. the weekend was gone in a flash. it was back to work and reality --until anotherlong weekend comes along.

*pic from cooljuhl

1 comment

  1. madjuhl6:25 AM

    a link to cooljuhl's page would have been enough.


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