Early in the morning we went on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City in our bus provided by UEF that we take everywhere. The first place we went to was the reunification palace. This was the residence of the South Vietnamese president. During the fall of Saigon a tank crashed through the gates to the palace and rolled onto the lawn, that tank is present on the grounds of the palace today. The palace is very 60's esque in design and function. inside the palace the rooms are blocked off and one can look inside the rooms from behind a rope. The presidents quarters were very nice and they were my favorite section of the palace. It even had a live garden in the center right outside of his bedroom that was a unique feature.
In the basement there are several rooms filled with pieces of history. Below is a sign that briefly describes the history of the palace.
Sign in the basement of the palace
Next we went to the post office which reminded me of a train station and it was built by the French in the 1800's. Across the street is the Notre Dame cathedral which was also built by the French.
Our last stop was a Buddhist temple. There was a huge statue of the Buddha inside and I lit a candle and placed it in the candle holder. We had to take our shoes off to enter the temple, and out of respect we stayed quiet while exploring. The back of the temple housed the ashes of deceased Buddhists and a small picture to remember them by.
Our UEF friends picked us up at the hotel and took us to the Benh Tanh market where one can find small trinkets or clothes or even food. We browsed around for a bit and I bought Anna and my mom a little gift. The key to saving money is to bargain. Cut the asking price by 60% and stick to it. Some times they sell, sometimes they don't. If you can speak Vietnamese they lower the price of the item because they expect that you know the actual price. If you are a foreigner they increase the price by anywhere up to 250%. This being said bargaining is essential as a foreigner. Even more essential is having the help of a local. This is exactly what the UEF kids did for us, they were able to tell us the proper prices for items and prevent us from being ripped off.
After going to the market our UEF friends took us to karaoke. We were in our own private room! It was really nice and high tech. We had an awesome time with our friends and we sang old and new songs alike.
Our private room at karaoke
A Pitt student wanted to get a soccer ball and while we we waiting for him I asked my riding partner Tâm to take me to a helmet store to purchase my own helmet. I wanted one because I don't like her spare and I wanted one as a souvenir to take home. The helmet shop was also only one block around the corner from the hotel so getting one quick wasn't an issue. Tâm drove us over to the shop and we looked through the selection finally settling on a solid, wel made matte black helmet with a red star on the side. The price: $9.13. When we arrived back at the hotel my friend Mÿ told me that the helmets bought is made by a very good brand. My friend Tuan gave me a cloth mask to wear a few days ago when I ride on a bike. It replaces the disposable surgical masks in function. You might as well consider myself assimilated into the Vietnamese population now that I have my own mask and helmet! Check it out!
My new helmet and mask!
My riding buddy Tâm and me