Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Vietnam Vacation: Day Eight

Motorbikes pass by the Notre Dame Basilica.
[For a recap of our fun last day in beautiful Phu Quoc, read HERE. We went on a tour of the island and saw everything from wineries to a war/torture museum.]

It had finally come, our last day in Vietnam. I had set up our flights so we could have a long layover in Ho Chi Minh City. That way, we could experience the city without having to take away from relaxing in Phu Quoc or getting to know Hanoi. The bigger, more urban Ho Chi Minh City was less of a priority, so we decided we did not need to spend too much time there.

Early in the morning, we took the shuttle van out to the airport. Boarding the plane there, we were soon in Ho Chi Minh City. (From here on out, I'll call Ho Chi Minh by its older name: Saigon. It is used a lot in Vietnam anyway, plus it is easier to type)

Entering the City

As soon as we got to Saigon, we had a decision to make about what we would do with our luggage. We wanted to explore the city a little, but we also needed a place to keep our stuff. We settled on getting a cheap hotel room in a more culturally significant part of the city. They have a place at the entrance/exit of the airport where a person will help you book a room and schedule a taxi. I had never done this before, but it was a huge help. The lady had a huge book of hotels. She showed us what the best ones were (or at least we hoped she did), and we chose one finally. About 30 minutes later, we were in a taxi and heading out to our room.

Unfortunately, the hotel, the Thành Long Tân Hotel, was the least inviting one we had been to. The bellhop seemed to linger around us looking for a tip, uncomfortably so. I ended up tipping him just so he would leave. I found a cockroach in the bathroom as well. No big deal really, but the worst place at all, actually, the room was quite nice. However, it was easily the worst place we had stayed in while in Vietnam. I guess we had been spoiled by good luck.

I had some work to do. Luckily, we had wireless internet and time to spare. +Jackie Eckles watched Addams Family Values while I worked. Eventually, I finished, our phones were done charging, and we went out to explore the town.

Fun Walking around Saigon

Using Foursquare, we found a decent looking restaurant. It was a bit of a walk though. No matter, walking is one of the best ways to get to know a new city. Along the way, a man offered us some coconut juice when we got outside. Even though it seemed expensive, we wanted to try it. He took out a machete and a whole coconut and sliced it open for us. Crazy!

Along the way, we stopped at the old Catholic cathedral, Nhà Thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn, also known as the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, a Gothic style building. I loved it. We stood there taking pictures for a really long time.

Palm trees and churches.

I was so busy taking photos, I didn't notice the storm coming towards us.

The Notre Dame Basilica dominates the area.

This church is very photogenic.

You snap those pictures, girl!
Meanwhile, the clouds began to roll in...

Here comes the clouds over one tower of the Notre Dame Basilica. Great.
Across the street, we walked into the post office, the Saigon Central Post Office. Jackie wanted to mail off her postcards. The massive post office is huge; it looks like it could have once served as a train station. It retains a great deal of that old charm. I felt like I suddenly was the star of an old Humphrey Bogart movie or something. Great!

The Saigon Central Post Office

What time is it back home?
When we walked outside, we caught a bride getting ready to head inside the church for her wedding. Pretty cool sight.

Fixing the bride's hair.
We still had maybe a mile to get to our lunch destination. It had been awhile since we had eaten and we were starving. The place we went to had good reviews and promised a huge selection of beer and good Western food. We began to walk quickly because it became obvious a gigantic storm was coming our way. The clouds raced up to us and let loose. Water rained down on us unlike any we had seen since entering Vietnam. Just torrents and torrents of it.

It's hard to take pictures while you're running!
We ran as fast as we could and took shelter in the entrance to a fancy hotel. While there, we checked Google Maps and tried to find the exact building where we needed to go. Between Maps and Foursquare, we had it narrowed down to one of two neighboring buildings. After waiting for the storm to pass and realizing it would not any time soon, we resigned ourselves to getting soaked.


Once we made it to the first building, we discovered it was not the right one. Ugh. We would have to go back out there. The buildings shared an alley, but there was no entrance on the side of the building. I ended up stepping in a pothole and filling my shoes with water. Yay!

Sunglasses covered in rain with the Vuvuzela logo reflecting in them.

Finally, we made it to the restaurant, Vuvuzela Beer Club. It took forever for them to sit us, and when we were, nobody would come to take our order. They seemed to forget about us, the soaking wet couple sitting in the secondary dining area. I eventually had to go ask a server in the main dining area to serve us.

We got our food after a long time and a pitcher of beer. The price for beer was more than anywhere else we had been though. Also, they never brought Jackie's order. We received the appetizer and my meal, but hers never came. By that time, we had spent way too long waiting for food. So we just left.

The only good thing about the place was the bathroom is kind of neat. It has one way glass, so you look out on the dining area while at the urinal. That is okay. I guess. The whole place is basically like a Hooters. I hate Hooters though. So perhaps this place is just not for me.

Bottom Line: Don't eat at Vuvuzela Beer Club.

After that horrible experience, we decided to stop by a cafe in the building where we were held up at earlier. Molinari Café looks fancy on the outside. And, sure enough, everyone inside was dressed nicely. The coffees were not too expensive. We had a couple of coffees with Bailey's and some cheesecake. Meanwhile, we talked and just hung out. The atmosphere is great there. It really leant itself to relaxing conversation.

Later we stopped by the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Those are all over Seoul, so it was a funny way to connect to home before leaving Vietnam. (It is funny to think of Korea as my home now...)

After heading back to the hotel for a couple of hours, we booked a taxi and left to the airport. At the check-in desk, I simply asked if we could move up to first class and the lady let us for free. Amazing what a smile and a question can do!

We had to wait a long time for the flight home. It was delayed, so we left at about 1 a.m. We passed the time by eating a massive amount of sushi and then sleeping in the waiting area. (Although we were first class, we could not use the first class lounge)

First class was enjoyable. You get slippers and a sleeping mask thing. Your seats can recline all the way into a bed. Whoa! It was fun.

And there you go. That was all of what happened in Vietnam. Thanks for reading. I will post a wrap up of all the best places we saw and did while in the country later this week or next.

For more photos from this day, check out my Google Plus photo album.
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