Tag Archives: culture

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon?


It doesn’t matter what name you choose  to call it, Ho Chi Minh is a BIG city!

Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City

It covers an area of over 2,000sq. kms, and is made up of about 24 districts, with District 1 and District 3 being the most popular for tourists. These two areas have the most sights, museums, eateries, bars, etc.

I loved Saigon (I choose to call it by its former name, don’t ask why, I just do)!  It somehow felt like an “Asian London”  if that makes any sense!  The size, the new with the old, the way it welcomes visitors and makes you feel at home.  Although it is an extremely busy metropolis I felt totally comfortable wandering the streets from one tourist site to another. Of course, crossing the road was a feat in itself!  Luckily there are no drunken westerners on motorbikes to contend with like in Bali, just locals who have the dodging and weaving down to a fine art!

Saigon has many beautiful buildings, one being the Reunification Palace which is open to the public and well worth a couple of hours of your time.  For those of us old enough to remember, it is where the tank broke through the gates and thus signalled the end of the war in 1976.  The Palace has been kept really well and down in the basement you can see the  “war rooms” as it was back during the war. It’s a must for anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War.

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

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We found Saigon very easy to navigate and really enjoyed wandering around each day. The people are far less “reserved” than those in the northern city of Hanoi.  Our favourite place of course had to be where the street food was in District 1,  Ben Thanh Market.

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BBQ Grill stall

food marketWe ate there every day, no matter what the time, it was a place to sit and chill with great food and cold beer. Can’t wait to go back in November and take my friend!

There are so many stalls serving different types of food, not all Vietnamese but Indian, Korean, French and I wish I could stay there long enough to try them all!

Food Saigon
Typical dish cost about $2 !

The markets are all undercover and next to the food is the retail market.  If you can’t find what you’re looking to buy here,  it doesn’t exist! market There are clothes, shoes, bags, luggage, kitchen ware, watches, jewellery, gadgets just about anything you can think of. Haggling with the sellers is huge fun, they expect it and if you do it well there are bargains to be had! Just have a figure in mind and stick to it.  Be prepared to walk away if they won’t agree – they’ll eventually give in!

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Hoi An – City of Lanterns


You’re staying HOW LONG?

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That’s the response we got when telling people we were staying 10 days in Hoi An!  Apparently no-one stays that long!  A few days, maybe 5, but usually no more.  I guess that’s because there isn’t really a great deal to do in Hoi An, but unlike most visitors, we rented a motorbike and went off exploring nearby villages, beaches and other places like  Da Nang and My Son.

My Son
Old Temple at My Son

 

My Son
Bridge leading to ruins of My Son sacred site

Hoi An itself is a beautiful city and rightly named the City of Lanterns.  Sitting on the riverside, the old town is closed to vehicles at night making walking the streets very comfortable and safe.  Numerous restaurants, bars and little shops everywhere all plying for your attention.  We met so many wonderful people there,  the Vietnamese are so welcoming and friendly.  We shared a lot of laughs and jokes with them all and the girls in the markets loved to rub Rick’s tummy exclaiming  “Happy Buddha!”

Bridge Hoi An
Bridge over river that separates the Ancient City from the newer city

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The markets are a sight to see, the fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood is all so fresh, and unlike a lot of markets, it doesn’t smell!

If we had been staying in self-catering accommodation we would definitely been shopping there every day!  The fish were still flapping about in the bowls, they were straight off the fishing boats!

At night the city transforms into this wonderland of lights and for a few cents you can buy a candle and set it afloat along the river with hundreds of others. Hoi An is one of the cheapest places we stayed as far as food and drink went. A bottle of beer could be had for less than a dollar and cocktails for about $3. A meal for the two of us cost about $20 including drinks!  And during happy hour all cocktails are 2 for 1 “until you are drunk!” (quote)

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However, our favourite food was the street food, and the night markets provided that in abundance!  For a dollar or two a meal and a laugh could be had from any of the carts and we sampled just about all of them!

And again, like everywhere in Vietnam, it is the people that make it so good, the feeling that you belong there and are so very welcome.

Street Seller in Hoi An
Street Seller in Hoi An

Traditional Village Wedding…. And more..


For those of you that are wondering if that’s me in the header picture, well guess what – it is!  Back in the days when I was an actress on the big stage………. Wait stop!  I’m dreaming again!  But seriously, it is me, but no, I’ve never been an actress on any stage! (Although my husband may beg to differ!

Weddings are always great occasions,  but when it’s a marriage of two cultures, it becomes so much more…

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A while ago we were privileged to be able to attend a traditional wedding in a small village in West Java, Indonesia.  The trip to the village was an experience in itself, let alone the actual wedding!

It started with a flight from Perth to Jakarta, IMG_7826then a 3 hour train ride to Cirebon, and then about 30 minutes drive to the village of Sindagjawa.

I think we were probably the only western people in the village, and certainly the only ones that could speak English! But what a day!  Absolutely wonderful, the Javanese villagers made us so welcome, we were family!

And what a wedding!  The costumes, the ceremony, the music,  it was like being  in a movie!  I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like it.  And I must say,  I’ve never seen so many Aussie males have such a great time without any alcohol being served!  That in itself was quite unique!

But it wasn’t only a lot of fun,  it was a wonderful cultural experience,  the wedding traditions, from the bride and groom feeding each other,  IMG_0688to the coin and sweets throwing for the children, IMG_0750the blessings given by the families,  and then of course all the usual speeches  (which we didn’t understand a word of, but everyone was smiling so I guess it was all good stuff)!IMG_0710

After a whole day of celebrations, we returned to the hotel in Cirebon for a welcome cold beer or cocktail and nice dip in the pool.

I believe all of us that were there will treasure that day in our memories forever, and for the bride and groom we all wish them a long and happy marriage.

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