Well our 5 days are up Vietnams capital. The city is far more developed than Hanoi, the only other city we travelled too and I think has more to offer. We are in District 1 and can see The Ben Thanh market from the hotel and most of HCMC attractions are within walking distance.
The view from our hotell showing the Benh Thanh Market
We are back to a two rooms non interconnecting deal in a good hotel with a nice pool on the roof and a fantastic view of the city. So the compromise being Matt and I doing the sitting in the hallway every evening updating the blog and drinking bad coffee while we supervise our two rooms. To anyone walking past we look a bit strange and get some interesting sideways glances. Then off we trott to our respective rooms to look after whichever combination of kids it is for that night. They enjoy having turns at being the "only child" in Dad's room with the treat of sneaking down to breakfast a bit earlier. One big score for Ho Chi Min as far as the kids are concerned is the playground at the Toa Dan Park which we go to each morning to blow off some steam before tackling the days activities.
The rooftop pool and view with Bitexco tower in the background
Hijinks at the park
As a treat for the kids we spent the morning at the Dam Sen waterpark, always a bit of a "grin and bare it" experience for Matt and I but the kids love it. So we set off early to get there for the 9am opening. Note to self - dumb idea during school holidays. The place was teaming with kids most without their parents on some ? holiday programme. The noise was unbearable and it was a scramble for everything even just to use the changing rooms. Our kids struggle to understand the pushy rude behaviour they witness but hopefully they'll still have some manners when we get back. There were some sights and experiences to behold. Being stared at was fun, watching a little boy pee all over the path that people were walking on while his parents stood back and watched. Bellie and my trip to the toilet (my most hated job with her and her need to go every 20 mins) where I couldn't stand up straight or sit on the toilet with my legs out the front and shut the door and having buckets of water whooshed in under the door all over our feet. Part of the the hourly cleaning that were signed for yet there is little evidence of them. Unlike Hanoi's waterpark the staff were really strict on the height restrictions Holly and Toby were stuck in the little kids pool much to their dismay. Thankfully after just 2 1/2 hours we persuaded the kids they didn't really want to be there and disappeared with a promise of icecream.
Now and then we still come across the odd squat toiet - again another experience for just Mum and Bellie as Holly can turn off her need to pee when she sees one and boys, well they're just lucky with their plumbing. So Bellie will walk in and say "oh no not one of those crouching ones again Mum" and then we spend the next 5 mins tying to keep clothes and feet dry - those things were not designed for 3 year olds wearing trousers. I almost choke when we also have to pay for the privilege as they are invariably filthy and have no toilet paper. If you're a guy in Vietnam it ia completely acceptable to pee at the side of the road. The kids thinks it's hilarious driving down the road seeing men relieving themselves.
As we've previously talked about the wages are low and there always seems to be an abundance of staff mostly standing round looking bored. It seems no job description ever should cross over into another. You can be standing at reception with 8 staff and they'll call the bell boy to help you with your bags from the other side of the hotel. Because of the low wages people seem to live very much day by day it seems. All the shops sell shampoo etc in what we would consider single use samples these are bought here as the outlay for a bottle of shampoo is to great against the weekly wage. Food is bought in much the same manner hence the lack of big supermarkets.
Traffics still busy!
I took the girls for a haircut the other day. The first challenge being finding somewhere "above board". You see district 1 of Ho Chi Min City is full of hairdressing salons staffed by groups of 10 or so very "dolled up" gals wearing matching short tight dresses. They are known for going above and beyond in terms of offering "extra services". So anyway Bellie got a very short fringe trim and Holly a haircut from a funny dude wearing "Where's Wally" glasses. Matt's hair is getting shorter and shorter, each day he comes back not quiet happy with how it looks!
Matt: The sights we have been to have been good. We took a trip up the Bitexco tower which is the city tallest building boasting incredible view over the city.
The view from the tower
The city's museums have also been well worth a visit. The best was probably the History museum which had quiet a few relics taken from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It also had a rather unusual display of a mumified woman found 200 years ago when excavation was being done in the city. The kids were quite bemused at seeing a rather dead looking lady in a glass box on display.
Here's Mrs Mummy
Across the road from the History museum is the Military museum. Inside is a collection of Ho Chi Minhs as he liberated the south. Outside is a large display of tanks, planes and rockets from the American war. The most popular is one of the tanks that busted down the gates to the Reunifacation Palace on 30th April 1975.
Mostly a big empty room except for 4 watsons- the Military Museum
I also went to the War Remnants Museum but by myself. I was warned before hand what to expect. It's a very sobering place and not one for small children. Originally named the "Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes" it contains mostly information from the American invasion. There are rooms full of graphic images and text detailing the atrocities committed during the war. The museum is HCMC most popular but also gets a bit of bad press for being very one sided. However everything inside is well documented and a large amount of information and images were provided by the Americans. There are rooms dedicated to the use of Napalm during the war and it's effects now, the My Lai massacre, torture used by the Americans and the maltreatment of the dead civilians. It also has a section dedicated to Americans who were involved in the deaths of civilians that have gone on to political office in American like Senator Bob Kerrey. Everything inside was chillingly terrible and inhuman.
The last spot to visit was the Reunifaction Palace. All in all not a highlight. Summed up really with the tanks in the garden being replicas of the ones used to break down the gates in the famous photos from the end of the war. The kids enjoyed the basement which was a underground bunker full of communications centers and war rooms.
We've tried to do some more shopping but even going to the popular Ben Thanh market we've come out empty handed it seems there are only 5 different types of stores but replicated hundreds of times over.
Iceream at "Fannys"
The food has been nice. We found a cool BBQ resturant where they bring out your meat for you to cook yourself. With the weather so hot it's nice be around a BBQ with a cold beer.