Hailing a cab, we headed to downtown HCMC for Notre Dame. Constructed by the French, all its building materials imported from France. Quite an imposing structure, it is modelled along the Notre Dame in Paris.
We wandered around and hit on a replica of Notre Dame cathedral (another legacy of the French stay) and a French cafe beside it, where we stopped off. We sat up on the balcony watching the madness below and spotted this woman cycle up, and pull out a knife and carved up pineapple after pineapple in seconds and would have put any top French classically trained chef to shame.After that it was time for some entertainment….it was time for the Vietnamese water puppets show! This is a tradition that lasted back for centuries, when the farmers put on shows in the rice paddy fields! In all honesty, we had no idea what to expect of a show with puppets entirely in Vietnamese but it was absolutely brilliant. Based on the singing, I think I could be classed as a good singer here because the whaling tones are definitely different! They had all sorts of musical instruments too, like sticks with bells and boxes with strings. The show was a load of short stories but the puppets were birds, butterflies,dragons, snakes and people and it was insane how they made them move around the water. There were no strings, they were controlled behind a wall by about 8 people under the water. One of the stories was all about planting, cultivating and collecting the rice in the fields and they had people, oxen, butterflies and growing rice all happening. It was unreal! Actually one of the best shows we have ever laid eyes on! We kept wondering ‘how did they do that?’- especially when the dragons appeared out of the water breathing fire!That night we went for a change and opted for an Indian which turned out to be one of the most flavorsome of our trip so far! Then had a brew sitting on mini chairs in a Bia Hoi pub on the corner of a manic crossroads. The humidity, people, plastic chairs and general randomness going on around us gave the place a cool vibe. It also leant itself to make the fellow tourists and post work Vietnamese relax and merge into one chilled out possy. – At 16c a glass – the Bia Hoi ‘cheapest beer in the World’ may have something to do with it too!We sat on the street corner on children’s chairs, with our backs against the ‘wall’ and looked out at all the madness of people, vendors, traffic and low hanging electricity cables. We just loved the atmosphere of it all.When we were homeward bound, we spotted a cool cafe down a side street and went to take a look. It turned out to be a quiet haven in a funky coffee shop/bar and we sat and hung out for a bit longer until we started getting a bit peckish…With no other food source available, basic human instinct pointed towards the luminous blue birthday cake at the next table –Question: ‘…how best shall I extract said cake from said table?’………….Answer: learn ‘Happy Birthday’ in Vietnamese on YouTube and offer to take a group photo.….As a Wiseman once said – “Softly, softly, catchy monkey”Blue icing and the lightest sponge we’ve ever tasted = 2 Happy ladaaaaays!!!—– We decided to let Ho Chi Minh RIP in the mausoleum that he never wanted in favor of these guys!Watch the Vietnamese National Kick ass – Kung Fu crew that we stumbled across on a walk around Hanoi! Enjoy!&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp;
With them we visited Notre Dam Cathedral, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Jade Emperor Pagoda, City Hall and Opera House. All located in downtown in District 1. We first took a cab to Notre Dam Cathedral , a km away from our hotel. It was built in 19th century by French colonialists. The interiors of the basilica do look a bit similar to its namesake in Paris but is not as ornate. In front of the cathedral there is a Virgin Mary statue which is said to have shed tears in 2005 causing thousands of people to stop at the basilica. As per our guides, later it was discovered that there is a small hole on the top of the statue, and some rain water must have passed down coming out through the eyes. Across the street from the cathedral lies the Central Post Office, the largest PO in Vietnam. The building looks beautiful from outside. Its architect is the famous Gustav Eiffel who also designed Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty.The cathedral - post office area seemed to be popular for taking wedding photos. We saw at least four wedding couples getting their photos professionally clicked over there. The boulevard outside the cathedral is quiet picturesque and a popular walking street. We decided to come back there later in evening.Walking distance from post office is the Opera House, another city landmark built by the French. It is open to the public during events/shows. Next our guides took us to a road-side kiosk to try Vietnamese milk tea. They had a wide variety of flavours, mostly fruit based, served both hot and cold. All four of us tried different flavours and they all tasted amazing. We then took a cab to War Remnants Museum. Few museums drive home the brutality of war so effectively. There are disturbing photographs of US war atrociwties. The are photos and news clipping showing how widely the war was opposed within US and by the world. It is unbelievable that this war continued for more than 20 years, under four different US Presidents. A section displays pictures of children horribly effected by Agent Orange, a bio-chemical used by US during the war. You will also see some of these effected Vietnamese in person, selling handmade souvenirs inside the museum. The museum closes by 12 noon, so reach there early enough to be able to go through most of the exhibits. Entry fee is 15,000 VND.