Tag Archives: Casbah

Ho Chi Minh – day 3

4 Aug

After eating breakfast at the hotel we headed back into the sweltering heat to explore. First up, a very sobering morning at the War Remnants Museum. So sobering in fact, I didn’t even make it through parts of it due to the graphic nature of some of the photographs. You forget how truly devastating the Vietnam War was. The morning left me in tears. Don’t worry this post gets less depressing.

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 After the museum we decided it was time to try the southern Vietnamese pho. As I mentioned in a previous post there is a bit of a debate as to whether the northern or southern pho is tastier. After polishing off a big bowl of southern pho, I came to the conclusion that it was the winner. I found it lighter and more fragrant. There were also more options with the vegetables you could put in, including basil (although basil is a herb isn’t it? but you get the point), which added such a nice kick. For Brian the pho debate was more of a tie…noting that he liked the meat better in the northern pho. So there you have it folks!

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After filling our bellies (thank God we were walking as much as we were otherwise I am convinced I would have gained 20 pounds on this trip) we headed to “antique street” to look for…you guessed it, antiques! Brian and I love to come home with treasures from our travels- my favorites include…a bright blue woven hammock from Nicaragua, a plush orange blanket handmade in the mountains of Nepal and the colorful bells from Nepal that hang around water buffalos necks on the trekking trails to warn you that they are coming. I make Brian wear them around the house sometimes. HA.

That day I was on the hunt for a small elephant statue with his trunk in the air, which supposedly brings good luck. Brian was much more open to what his treasure would be. We strolled from tiny hot store to tiny hot store.

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After hitting the whole block we circled back to our favorite one to do some bargaining- something Brian excels at and I fail miserably at. You can pretty much sell me anything. On the table…one elephant with his trunk in the air, one buddha head and two opium pipes (to be used as table art and not for smoking said opium). I let Brian do the talking while I continued to explore the shop. I can’t even watch people bargain with out getting uncomfortable. Finally I heard Brian say, “Do you take American Express?” and I knew we had a deal. We were now the proud owners of an elephant, a buddha head and two opium pipes. Winning! Clearly our antique street success called for Bintang beers so we decided to head back to Tiny’s in the backpacker district.

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After a few Bingtangs we headed back to our hotel for the routine three-hour afternoon break in our air-conditioned room, but not without a stop at the famous pastry shop, Tous Les Jours. Yes, this trip to Vietnam was becoming quite indulgent. Because of the French invasion in Vietnam many French influences can still be felt and I quickly learned I had a favorite…the baked goods!

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After picking out a few (I blame Brian) we walked back to the hotel where we then proceeded to eat pastries in bed while sipping on iced Vietnamese coffees.

After our siesta, we went out for Greek food followed by after dinner drinks at Casbah. Casbah had a completely different energy than the previous evening. The place really livened up as the evening wore on. It was packed with people and there were even belly dancers! The place was jumping. Luckily we found a quiet spot outside and away from the chaos. After imbibing in a few too many beverages, Brian and I decided it was the perfect time to face-time with Frank (yes, you read that correctly), via my sweet mama who was staying at our house to watch him. We both did the math and concluded it was 10am in LA, so we dialed and eagerly watched the phone as it rang. Suddenly my moms sleepy face appeared on my screen and she confusedly said  “Kate??? Hi honey. I can see you? I can see Brian? Why are you guys calling me at six in the morning?” Two thoughts crossed my mind at this point…shit we woke her up!….and….I can’t believe she’s never face timed before? It was then she shrieked “Does that mean you can see me?!! OMG I’M NAKED!!!”. At that point the screen went black and all I could hear was yelling. Poor thing! Not only was she rudely awakened at six am but now she was convinced her son-in-law just saw her naked. I was laughing so hard I was literally crying. Moments later she reappeared in a robe and just as I was about to reassure her that we couldn’t see anything the volume of the music went from 0-100 and a belly dancer appeared in front of our table. Clearly, it was our turn for the show. I tried to yell over the music but she couldn’t hear me and there was only one thing to do…wave and hang up. She must have thought we were insane.

After the required belly dancing show we strolled back to our hotel laughing about the evening. My heart and my belly feeling very full that night…day three in Ho Chi Minh was a good to us.

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Ho Chi Minh- day two

28 Jul

With our wretched first day in Ho Chi Minh behind us and a good nights sleep under our belts, we awoke in much better moods and excited to explore the city. First up on our itinerary was a stop at the Ho Chi Minh Museum. It was relatively close to our hotel so we decided to walk. The minute we stepped out of the hotel doors the thick hot and humid air enveloped us. It felt even hotter than the day before. How was that even possible? While I am not a huge fan of humidity, I quickly learned that my husband reallllllly doesn’t enjoy it. I won’t go as far as calling him a baby but I will say that there was some serious complaining going on.

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can you see the pain in his eyes?

After a twenty-minute walk, we arrived at the museum looking as if we had just showered. This weather was definitely going to take some getting used to! The museum was interesting (despite not being air-conditioned)- we both learned so much about Ho Chi Minh’s life before he became the president of Vietnam- I never knew he lived in France for a period of time working in kitchens or that he traveled many other countries in Europe working on a boat from 1911 to 1917. I’d say the museum is a must stop when in Ho Chi Minh…I mean the city is named after him and all.

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After the museum we headed over to Pham Ngu Lao, which is the backpacker district. It is made up of two parallel streets- Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao and a handful of tiny connecting alleys. I am a fan of exploring the backpacker district whenever I’m in a new city- they always feel more alive than the ritzy tourist areas. We wandered through the maze-like alleys taking in the sights (I could easily see into the locals homes from the narrow alleys, which was very exciting for a nosy person like me!) and smells (considering, nobody has air-conditioning and it was lunch time, the fragrant smell of food wafted out of the open doors…making me very hungry).

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With intense hunger pains now occupying both of our brains we decided it was time to break for lunch and picked a restaurant named Tiny’s at random. Well, maybe it wasn’t so random- it was the cleanest. We grabbed a table in the corner, luckily by a fan and quickly ordered two large Bintang beers to combat the heat. While I am not much of a beer drinker in my everyday life, it is pretty much all I ever order when I’m in Asia. Mostly because, my normal glass of chardonnay costs more than a meal for six and well, it just seems more authentic. You can safely say I wouldn’t be ordering a Bintang beer if I was in the south of France.

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After a decent lunch (nothing fancy at Tiny’s) of chicken hotpots (chicken, veggies & rice) we decided it was time for us to take break from the heat and headed back to the hotel. This became our daily routine – explore the city until around 3pm and then scurry back to the hotel for a few hours to read, write, shower (I showered three times a day in Ho Chi Minh) and nap in the cool air before heading back out for the evening. After our break we went to a Moroccan themed rooftop bar named Casbah that overlooked Notre Dame Cathedral for sunset cocktails (more bingtangs please!) and then had a truly amazing dinner at Thai restaurant named Golden Elephant.

Day three up next!

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