Episode 39: Two Days and Three Nights in Vietnam (Part 4)

Day 2 – Oct. 6
It’s our last day in Vietnam, so MC and I had to eat breakfast as fast as we could. This time, Kim and her twin daughters are joining us for a trip around Ho Chi Minh City’s tourist destinations. We’re going all out.
Along the way, we stopped by a store several blocks from Duxton Hotel Saigon to get food for the kids. I remember seeing this store still open last night. Today, though, other food stalls have opened near it. Street food sure is popular here.

The whole store sold fruits, breads and freshly baked pastries, fried and roasted duck and chicken. Roasted duck and chicken on the street… feels just like Manila.

The store also had space for those who want to dine in. Again, pho is the star.

Several minutes later, we reached Diamond Plaza, a luxury shopping complex at downtown HCMC. As far as I’ve read, the complex includes two buildings, and serves as a shopping center, 6 cinema lounges, restaurants, café, and hospital.

The whole complex was luxurious, homey, and really classy. On the other hand, I felt like I was stepping into that shopping complex from “Crisis Zone” (it’s an arcade game that takes place in a commercial complex; think “Time Crisis” where you wreck everything and everyone with your machine gun). But I digress.

Speaking of arcades, after passing by the department store, we went straight to the arcades. It has a bowling alley, a coffee shop, and the usual video games.

“Simz,” anyone?

Now what got me interested in the place is that it has a cocktail bar, with a large collection of alcoholoc and non-alcoholic drinks. Plus it’s a smoking area too. I guess this area is supposed to cater to mall-goers of all ages, though it’s gonna be awkward if you got drunk.

MC took the time to visit the perfume shops to ask about a certain brand. Looks like they don’t have it, whatever it is.

After an hour or so of hanging out at the mall, it was time to walk around the city a bit. Along the way, we passed by the Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, also known as the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. It’s one of the establishments built by the French colonialists in Vietnam. What a grand-looking church, I thought.

 

I heard that the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of the church once shed tears, though this was disproved later on. I wish I had a closer look at the church.

Our next stop was the Reunification Palace (some also call it the Independence Palace), one of the most
important historical landmarks in Vietnam. Once the seat of government of the French, Japanese, and what was called South Vietnam, this was where the Vietnam War ended.

We had a tour around the palace’s numerous meeting areas, gardens, dining rooms, and other facilities. The palace also had a theater, dance floor, library, and a collection of artifacts. The place is so big, I might as well try making a separate post about it.

 

The Reunification Palace has a balcony where the president would come and give (probably yell) his speech to his constituents and followers below. As I stood on that balcony, gazing at the garden below, I felt like I was in that scene in “Evita,” except I’d probably be singing “The Heat is On in Saigon” instead of “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.”

The fun part of the tour was when we went underground to see the palace’s war rooms. It’s like stepping into a war-torn past, except you’re a tourist learning Vietnam’s history and not Solid Snake infiltrating a military base.

Old radios and other communication equipment are lined up in every room, carefully preserved and set up like a functional palace facility. Each government function had its own office (plus a bed for the president). One room even had several maps, and a list of phone numbers of other countries, including the Philippines!

 

The tour ended at a museum highlighting important dates in Vietnamese history. Soon enough, it was time for our next stop. But first, snacks.
Pho 24 is a noodle restaurant chain that is popular in Vietnam for serving authentic Vietnamese dishes. It has branches in Indonesia, Cambodia, Macau – Hong Kong, Japan, and even in the Philippines (I hear there’s a branch at the Power Plant Mall in Makati). It’s also known for introducing instant pho noodles that can be enjoyed at home.

Pho is also called the national dish of Vietnam, as it “represents the heart and soul of the Vietnamese people.”

Our snack session (it felt more like lunch) consisted of pho, grilled pork with broken rice (rice grains fractured to give it a softer texture), and coconut juice to wash everything down. Of the numerous times I’ve eaten pho, this would be the best. I sort of added a bit too much chili, but who cares.
Before we knew it, it was already late afternoon. Kim had a few more places for us to see, though.
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Up next… The last night of the world, I mean, Saigon, er…

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