Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Vietnam Post - Day 1

I would really rather wait until I get home to write an account of my Vietnam trip, but since I have nothing (much) to do in the office (for now) anyway, I decided to (finally) blog about my first time to go abroad. :)

And as I am not one to make long blogposts, I'll be writing in installments. With lots of photos. :) I'll be uploading most of the photos in my Multiply account when I get home.


DAY ONE - May 28, 2009

Globe's roaming keyword wasn't working with me so I decided to call customer service and have my roaming activated manually an hour before our flight. The service worked pretty well all the time we were away, so plus points for that. Minus points for the hassle though. Hehe. I've blogged about waiting with wifi, so I'll skip the rest of the airport-plane ride stuff and move on to our arrival and my first impressions of Vietnam.

When we arrived I thought wow, they have a really nice airport! Very clean, with a sloped roof and shiny glass. From afar I could see tall buildings and signages. It was a sunny day; the weather's the same as here.

The tour company (Great Wall--very good, we recommend!) picked us up in two buses (all in all we were 53 I think, eight of us from our office and the rest were faculty and admin from the College of Nursing). And even if I was with my mom's group, we rode in different buses. I was in Bus 2 with my officemates, and our tour guide's name was Hung, which means "hero". As we drove around the city to our first destination, Hung gave a short history of Vietnam and the French, a few snippets of city life. I didn't listen much, seated at the back, and engrossed in what was happening outside my window. So this is what being a tourist feels like. Holding my camera I snapped away happily.

Lots of buildings in Ho Chi Minh (old name: Saigon). The streets' overall "feel" was like Malate, with antique shops, artworks for sale, shoes on sidewalks, fruits, and little tea-corners where people sat drinking tea (duh) and coffee, eating noodles and spring rolls, and just lounging around. Bicycles and motorcycles are the main modes of transport, with a 10:2 ratio to four-wheeled vehicles, I think.

Our first destination was the Notre Dame Cathedral and, across the street, the Post Office.

The Post Office had a nice souvenir shop of quality items.Me and the mom in front of the Post Office. :)

By the time we finished taking each other's photos, we were very hungry and so it was a relief when Hung said we'd be heading off to lunch. And may I just say, it was the heaviest lunch I had during the entire trip, because it was

an eat-all-you-can buffet!
(75 thousand Dong roughly converts to around Php 203.00.)

On the buffet tables were dishes with names I couldn't pronounce but could easily recognize: beef stew, fish fillet, buttered veggies, spring rolls, ginataang mais, buko pandan (mouth watering as I write this)... there was also sugarcane juice, and I had the best dessert:

durian ice cream!
It was so good that when we burped our breath tasted of durian. :)

After lunch the guide took us to the Royal Pearl Hotel, where we would be staying for four days. It was a nice hotel (three stars!); small but comfortable, and with wifi. I shared room 8007 with Ma'am Marielyn, the Assistant Director of our office. We were given a couple of hours' rest/free time before the afternoon's destination.

The OCD Family in Vietnam, at the hotel steps.
(Clockwise from top left) Ka Puroy, Ma'am Marlyn, Fr. Deng, yours truly, Ma'am Arlene, Ate Abby, Sir Joey, and Kuya Manny.

In the afternoon we went to the Vietnam War Museum. I shuddered at the photos taken and the accounts written about what happened during the war, the atrocities committed by the US military, the effects of Agent Orange, the general terror and anger during that time. We also went through the torture chambers where the government systematically and methodically grilled prisoners suspected of not being on their side. Man. I can't even say I enjoyed it. I learned a lot though.

The display made me glad I don't have enemies, and sincerely, I am glad to be free.

Riding along, after the War Museum we headed to a handicrafts factory that employed differently-abled citizens. They made plates, wall hangings, jars, and jewelry boxes among others, using wood, eggshells, and lacquer. I realized laying out designs using eggshells required great patience and skill, not to mention good eyesight and manual dexterity.

on macro mode.

Our last guided destination for the day was the revolving restaurant (it was just the floor that moved, i stupidly learned) with a great view of the city. I've already posted a photo at the thursdaykids blog. More culinary delights, and after dinner and before heading back to the hotel we asked our guide to take this photo:

empty plates, full tummies.

The day wouldn't be complete without a 'night tour' of the market area by ourselves. After trying my hand at haggling (and slightly succeeding) while it was raining (prompting the group to say "it wasn't a night market; it was a wet market!"), I joined the officemates at a streetside eatery with twenty thousand Dong in my pocket. I didn't buy anything though. Haha.

Heineken beer for 17thousand Dong.

That's about it for our first day. I was rain-wet and exhausted, and when we got back to the hotel I managed a quick shower before heading to bed. I brought Mr. Kite the Iguana along, and we snuggled together happily.

The adventure continues the next day, in the next post. :)

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