After another free breakfast of the usual same old bit of toasted baguette and omelette jazzed up by my very own self-made mixture of spicy mayo, I went ahead to meet up with Sam and the mechanic to finally fix my fuel gauge. Once that had been taken care of, I was free to my devices. Later on, I checked out the nearby market around the corner and found quite a gem especially considering its lazed convenience of being so close. At the market, I joined what turned out to be four French Canadians for some banh xeo. After sharing the meal with them, I joined them on a Lonely Planet guided tour of Saigon. We walked around to tour the main sights within walking distance including the Ben Thanh market, Saigon Central Post Office, Notre Dame Basilica, and the War Remnants Museum. The Ben Thanh market is where you can buy cheap knock off items whether it be shoes, shirts, or whatever else the hawker stalls chose to throw in your face. While walking through the tight corridors amidst the many packed stalls in this massive market, the environment felt like a broken record with the repeated message of each hawker trying to sell their wares. Each one jumped up to attention at the slightest alert of a white person as if they had a sixth sense to notice our approaching presence. They would begin their pitch which was mostly a garbled mess of the English language after the word ‘sir’ before closing out their pitch like a finely tuned bow tie with some phrase revolving around the idea ‘would you like to buy?’ To have any hope of not getting tangled into their web and make it out alive, I had to ignore them as if they were not even there continuing on my mission to reach the other side. The post office had reminders of the proud French architecture left over while the basilica represented the divide from the rest of Asia with the strong presence of Christianity in the country (something I had already witnessed while touring through the Mekong). The War Remnants Museum had quite an array of old artillery including fighter pilots and gunnery on the outside of the building. The museum itself opened my eyes to some tragedies I was not aware of that occurred during the Vietnamese War. Granted the museum was skewed in its take but offered a certain insight into their world. I never heard of Agent Orange in which the U.S. sprayed chemicals over the country that affected not only the people at the time but future generations with gruesome diseases that attacked people’s genetics. The pictures were gruesome and heartbreaking to witness to the point I could not linger for long. I am not a big war history fanatic so I moved through it quite quickly; plus I felt it missed out on the victims’ message while instead using disheartening photographs over and over. We went back to our separate quarters when we get back around to Bui Vien before meeting up with Philip and Irene included for some food on the street with the rest of the backpackers. After Irene and Philip left, the five of us went to a cheapo restaurant that served 8000 dong beers to pass the time until the night beckoned us in but still at the early hour of 9 o’clock but I couldn’t be bothered with enough yawns passed around. Before truly closing the chapter on today, I went to the adjacent park to pick up a banh trang tron salad (made up of mainly thin, dry rice noodles complemented by roasted peanuts, two cooked (sometimes these kinds of details actually need to be specified) quail eggs, jerky-type beef strips, pork, chili, spring onions, and some sort of crisped wonton strips for crunch) at the same stall I bought the Asian street tacos at. While eating my dynamite street meal, I watched the locals play football/soccer, badminton, skateboard, and hit around for a juggle a shuttlecock (these people are acrobatic/gymnast/yoga master flexible since the shuttlecock frequently sailed over the heads to which they reacted by flicking their leg way back to return the serve in the opposing direction; this sport has easily been the most popular sport from what I have so far seen) while a small group went through some interesting, energetic dance routine. Dinner and a show, how can you complain with that?
Riding Vietnam Day 151: ‘O Ca-na-da!’ Part Deux