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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Sláinte! Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Sunday, 18 March 2007 3:00am

Our last day around Saigon. In the morning, we ran some errands: Jessica picked up her custom-made ao dai, we tried (and failed) to find a book swap where we could rotate out some of the books that we've both finished, and we tried (and failed) to get train tickets from Hanoi to Sapa.

The tour agent was refreshingly honest about the fact that that was because tour agencies have booked big blocks of tickets that they may or may not use, and that they'll release the day before if they don't manage to sell them. We'll have to see if we can juggle our excursions to Halong Bay and Sapa to make it work. Maybe we'll end up making the jaunt over to Laos that we bumped from the schedule because it seemed we wouldn't have time.

After not finding a French bistro that we wanted to eat at, we had tapas for lunch. Gazpacho is pretty much perfect in this weather.

We took cyclos from the river area to Cholon, the old Chinatown. I think there was a (perhaps willful) misunderstanding between us and the cyclo drivers about what we wanted. Our understanding was that they'd take us to a particular market for 150,000 VND (which the guidebook says is too much to pay, but we didn't feel like pursuing the bargaining further), but it turned out that they wanted to give us a tour of Cholon for 150,000 VND per hour, and probably lasting three or four hours. They took us to a market in Cholon and were trying to guide us further, but told them that we weren't interested in that. We offered the 150,000, since the trip had taken the better part of an hour, but they wouldn't take it. So we started to walk away and they re-decided and took the money.

To complicate matters, it turned out that, while we were at a market in Cholon, we weren't at the market in Cholon they said they'd take us to. We were just barely on our map of Cholon at all. We had to go a few intersections before we were able to determine where we actually were.

We walked around Cholon for a few hours, stopping in at various Chinese-style pagoda temples (and taking a look at a mosque, for variety). There was an area where they sell herbs and spices. We got to see giant bags of dehydrated purple squids, big mushrooms, and lots of leafy things that smelled exotic.

We took a cab back across town to the Irish pub listed in the LP. We'd anticipated that it would be packed, but we hadn't figured on them having sold tickets at $35 a head (and having sold out). We had to settle for a nearby Australian-themed bar for our St. Patrick's Day drinks. We played a little pool, and discovered that we've lost whatever skill we once had in our days at Botany Bay.

We went to one of the gourmet restaurants for dinner. It was a disappointing. The ambiance was really nice: beautiful lacquer furniture, live vietnamese music, dark wood walls... but the food wasn't special enough to justify the price.

We had another hour before our night train, so we stopped at a noodle bar that advertised wi-fi, then picked up our luggage from our hotel and headed to the station. Pleasantly, the train was already boarding by the time we got there.

Beer Larue: there was something very strange about this beer, the first time we had it (on draft at the tapas place). The first flavor was cold. I don't mean that the beer was cold, but that the taste was. When we had it again at the bar, it had some of the same flavor, but it wasn't as pronounced. Refreshing, but weird.

Number 1 (White): sweet. Light taro-like flavor.

"Seaweed drink": very dilute flavor somewhere between licorice and root beer.

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