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 Ho Chi Minh City part 4

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Tổng số bài gửi : 47
Join date : 08/11/2009

Bài gửiTiêu đề: Ho Chi Minh City part 4   Mon Nov 09, 2009 11:49 pm

31. Saigon, street vendors
Saigon is a rather new city. In the 15th century there was not much else than swamps here. In the 17th century a small town was formed. At the end of this century a local government was formed. Due to its strategic location, the city grew rapidly. At the end of the 18th century the town became officially a city.
In the 19th century the French invaded the city. They stayed here for a century. That is why many monuments and buildings have a European look. In 1954 the French were defeated. Some years later, Vietnam was splitted in two. Many citizens of North and Central Vietnam migrated to Saigon.

32. Saigon, pagoda
Many of the North Vietnamese that came to Saigon during the 1950's and 1960's were entrepreneurs, other were intellectuals, and other were politicians. All this led to the expansion of the business and cultural life in Saigon. In the western world Saigon was known as the "Pearl of the Orient" .
In 1975 Communists invaded the city, and the country was reunified. The official name of the city was changed to "Ho CHi Minh City". Until a few decades Saigon was closed to foreigners. Nowadays Saigon is a city open to the world. The official name may still be Ho Chi Minh, but Vietnamese call it Saigon.

33. Saigon, motorbikes' jam
Officially 6 or 7 million people live in Saigon. Half of them own a motorbike. During rush hours, streets and avenues in the center of Saigon are flooded with this small motorbikes.
Possessing a motorbike is a symbol of status. Many youngster recognize it would be impossible for them to find a girlfriend without a scooter. The more expensive the bike, the easier it is for them to find a beautiful girl.
A typical teenager will pick up his girlfriend a weekend afternoon, take her for a ride, and sit in a park's bench to talk. Public kissing is, still, un polite.

34. Saigon, hindu Temple
Vietnam’s official currency is the Dong. There is a Dong-Dollar fixed exchange rate. The exchange rates for the rest of the currencies (Euros, Australian dollars, Canadian Dollars, British Pounds, etc) vary on a daily basis.
All important foreign currencies can be exchanged easily. Banks and official agencies are the place to go. In some cases you may get better deals in silver shops. Avoid exchanging in the black market, specially in the street. They may give you fake notes.
Everything costs thousands of dong. Sometimes sellers say only a number. Let's say, six. They mean six thousand dong. If a taxi driver (or any seller) says six, make sure he means six thousand dong, and not six US dollars.

35. Saigon, Lau Restaurant
You can see a Lau restaurant. Lau was one of my favorite dishes. Lau is also known as 'Hot Pot'. Although the dish is delicious, you may need some help to eat it.
Lau is a Saigon specialty where customers are served a boiling casserole with a fire to keep it hot. You have to put the vegetables in the broth. There is the meat, the sea food, the fish and even the snake versions of this dish. If you want to taste them all, order the mixed Hot Pot. The waiter will explain you when, and for how long, you have to put the meat in the broth. You may also order some noodles and put them in the pot.
I was told that people of Saigon like Hot Pot (or Lau) because they can eat this dish for hours while drinking beer. Yes, I was told people in the South of Vietnam are heavy drinkers.

36. Saigon, Buddhist Statue
Saigon, with Hanoi, is one of vietnam's main entry points. There is an international airport 4-5 miles from District 1. You may get there on a taxi. If I am not wrong, there is a fixed price to get to the airport. If not, ask how much it will cost you before stepping in.
To enter Vietnam you will need a visa. You will have to apply for a tourist visa in your home country. If there is no Vietnamese Embassy, you will have to contact the nearest Embassy. If you are traveling around Southeast Asia, Bangkok is the best place to apply for a visa.
Tourists visas are stamped at the airport, and are valid for one month. If you want to stay longer you will have to apply for a visa extension. Any travel agency, or even your hotel, can do it. If you need to do any official paperwork, I also recommend you to do it through a travel agency (or through your hotel).

37. Saigon, evening in Downtown
Saigon is a hot city. If you have plans to visit it, bring plenty of Summer clothes. T-shirts, shorts and a good pair of sandals will be your best allies. You will also need a raincoat. Remember that when visiting pagodas and temples you should not show much skin.
The best time to visit the city is late in the afternoon. At this time you will be surrounded by locals when walking along the streets in downtown Saigon. At first hour in the afternoon, you will only see foreigners in the streets. People of Saigon, specially women, avoid the sun. They even use masks and long gloves to protect themselves from the sun rays. Dark skin is not fashionable.

38. Saigon, Ben Thanh Market Restaurant
If you do not have much time to look around, a good place to have dinner is at the street stalls next to the Ben Thanh Market. There are several restaurants one next to the other. As always, choose the most crowded one. Usually people know what they do.
I really enjoyed the food in these restaurants. You can come here several days, and taste a different local dish every day.

39. Saigon, Cao Dai Temple
When visiting Saigon there are several excursions you can do. The most popular one day tour, is a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple.
The Cao Dai Temple is 60 miles (100 km) from Saigon. Although some guides say it is not worth the long trip, I disagree. If you only have half a day free, reserve a Cu Chi Tunnels tour. But if you half a full day, visit both. First hour in the morning you will get on a minibus and go to the temple. You will get on time to visit the temple and see a ceremony from on the balconies (next photo). Later the minibus will take you to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi Tunnels show the tenacity of Vietnamese people. The first tunnels were built during the French War, but the longest ones were dug during the American-Vietnam War. The tunnels were several hundred miles long. Some of the Tunnels stretched from Cu Chi to the Cambodian border. The tunnels were used to attack the Americans. The Cu Chi area has the doubtful honor of being the most bombed land on earth. If you visit the Tunnels you will be shown the craters of some of the dropped bombs.

You can see a Cao Dai ceremony. As you can see, this is a colorful religion. The temple is decorated in gaudy colors.
Before the ceremony you are allowed to visit the temple. You can take pictures. Monks will tell you what you can do, and what parts of the temple you can visit. At twelve, you will be invited to climb the stairs. From the balcony you can see the prayers ceremony.
As in most temples in Vietnam, you have to leave your shoes at the gate.

40. Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnels
You can see a Vietnamese soldier showing us one of the Cu Chi Tunnels. If you take the Cu Chi Tour, a guide will also show you some of the traps the Viet Congs used to kill their enemies.
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