10 Mar 2011

Ho chi Minh city

We landed in Ho Chi Minh city at about 3pm their time. It was hot and dry once we were away from the cool air-conditioned airport. Unlike my previous journeys, this is a rough trip- we didn't have a guide nor an air conditioned coach waiting for us. Warned about not carrying heavy luggage, all of us had only a small cabin bag with us. (We were supposed/expected to buy extra luggage here!) Right after we exited the airport pulling our bags with us we rushed for the bus which was waiting for passengers at the roadside. It wasn't air-conditioned as the windows were open. We boarded the bus and stored our luggage at the front but as other passengers kept coming, we decided to keep them with us.
Ho chi Minh  city is fairly big - sprawling rather. We passed old fashioned buildings that must have existed before the Vietnamese war as well as new ones - all modern and shiny.Some parts are quite beautiful and elegant looking, with lots of trees lining the roads. In fact one boulevard reminded me very much of Paris with it's green trees lining the avenues,old statues decorating these places and European looking houses. We passed a building with such beautiful architecture I craned my neck to see further. It was the Opera House! It must have been beautiful at one time - rather like a grand old dame who was once upon a time a beauty in her day! She stood alone in her white finery - beautiful pillars on either side and a facade that had a lot of carvings.  Just in front of the Opera House there was an avenue of green plants with a large fountain in the middle.

Once we were checked in at the small hotel (The Ava) our tour leader told us she would take us to a place where they sell baju kurong. It was a boutique, but they also made clothes to order and most were for Malaysian markets! They were ready made traditional dress that Malays in Malaysia wear and these are actually very expensive in Kuala Lumpur but here in Ho Chi Minh they cost only 1/3 of their price! Imagine one beautiful kurong which would be about RM500-RM600 in KL was only RM92 here! I bought two only although I would have loved to get more. Alas, I didn't really wear these beautiful dresses for every day. I'm more of a jeans and T shirt sort of person and only wear the kurong during official functions.

The beautiful Opera House
a street scene in Ho Chi Minh city
Traffic in this city is quite horrendous. Motor bikes are kings of the road and if you are timid, you'll never get across the road! They are everywhere - left, right and centre. There are fewer private cars though - much of the traffic seems to be vans, taxis and motor bikes. However we did see a number of the super rich in their huge luxury cars at traffic light junctions. Much of our stay here was spent shopping - we went to the Ben Thanh Market which sold everything - from electronic goods to fresh flowers!


naida said...

wow Kat, it sounds like a great trip. The opera house is quite the sight!
I'm sure the dresses are lovely too.

Kat said...

Oh yes naida, they were!