The weather was pretty hot when my plane landing at Tan Son Nhat, Vietnam International Airport. The Vietnam Airport is somewhat pretty cool from my point of view, it looks modern, cold and compact. You won’t find many greeneries like the one you see a lot at Changi Airport, it’ll be single potted plants in each corner. Marlon, a guy that I met at Soekarno-Hatta airport (as well as the guy who helped me around with my luggage) told me that the Vietnam government is planning to re-build the whole airport, because they don’t seem to like it. Hahaha. I saw a few areas that under construction. Plus since the airport used for the Army Air forces as well, I could see fighting jets.
I was planning to go the hotel with Marlon, since our hotel was not too distance with each other, but then I got called from my sister that one of my Church friends already at the airport to pick me up. Lucky! Her name is Qin, and she wrote my name on a piece of paper it was written “LOLO SIANIPA” … almost correct . So I bid Marlon goodbye since he also picked up by his friends, with a promise to see each other at the city. We grab a cab and… O it left side driver… go the hotel. Ho Chi Min City definitely not the most beautiful city I ever visited (mostly in Indonesia), but I’m excited to know what’s going on.
Oh first, let me explain this to you about “church friends”, I never met Qin before of my any other Vietnamese Church friends, but since “church friends” will play a major role on my trip at Ho Chi Min City later on, I think I need to explain. The Church that I’m registered in is a church under one worldwide organization called International Church of Christ, we have this “Brotherhood and Sisterhood” concept that wherever and whenever we are we share the same faith about God, and how He lived in us. We shared the same value of God’s Gospel and therefore we’re bind as brother and sister. That’s why as much as we’re stranger, we have this trust of each other and that we don’t mean harm thou we’re pure stranger. And so, that’s Qin for me.
We arrived at the hotel at De Tham Street at District 1. The hotel was purely a tourist hotel only US$22 per night and more like motel than hotel, but it’s right in the heart of tourist area at Ho Chi min City. If it’s in Bali, it’ll be the Kuta-Legian, or if it’s Jakarta it’ll be at Jalan Jaksa (only better). Now the cab fare was quite expensive in Vietnam, it was 102.000 VND from Airport to – I think almost all places in District 1. I was a bit surprised to see the hotel, cuz me and my sister, we usually stay at a fancier hotel when we’re traveling, and the one we were staying was very simple, but I can live with this knowing that it’s going to be a place to sleep and take a bath only. My sister – Rhea – was already waiting for me with another Church friend name Hung. Qin and Hung then took us to the Pho Restaurant name Pho 24 nearby hotel (at Pham Ngu Lao Street). I order for the specialties, it’s Pho Bo. O dear, that’s the best Pho noodle I have ever had. Seriously, I forgot to take a picture of it! Eating and slurping the whole big bowl seemed like the best task ever. O when you order Pho, please bear in mind to choose the kind of meat you want: well-done or raw, cuz it gives a different taste to the broth. I like the well-done one more. Having meals there is not cheap at all actually for us Indonesian, it’ll cost at least around 50.000 VND for each meal you have there.
After the beautiful lunch we start our cultural journey to the nearest museum called The Fine Art Museum or Bao Tang My Thuat. It’s the place where the government display and exhibit all the art collections of Vietnamese Artist. Unfortunately, you cannot bring camera inside the museum, and that’s why I only have my picture taken in front of it . It was seriously old and shabby, but I always like antiques or vintage things. Unfortunately, the guide was off that day or any other Saturday (Hm, weird! I thought mostly people go to the Museum on Saturday). Anyway, the ticket box keeper yelled at us that we have to start from the top floor then go down. We didn’t really pay attention to what she said so we’re walking around as we like. But, true, you suppose to go from the top floor first then go down. Why? Because, at the 3rd floor displays older works from 1st century to the twentieth century. It was breathtaking, so old and looks so mystique to me, The Funeral Statues, the Gods and Goddess statues, and artifacts. At the 2nd floor, displays contemporary art such as sketches, paintings and statues which focus on the resistance to the colonial rules. You won’t believe me but, there is this bronze statue of a Vietnamese girl that look A LOT like me. Seriously! I wish I had my camera with me and I’ll prove it to you. We were standing for around 15 minutes in front of it just to make sure. Hahaha. The art collections on this floor were mostly made by local Vietnamese artists that fought and die in the war. Some paintings was soooo intense, I got goosebumps looking at those paintings, the color, the structure, the object, the depth, it’s nothing scary but the whole feeling of the paintings strongly brings the memories of more than 30 years Vietnam in war. The statues are beautiful as well. Some war painting, like: The Frightening Street that shows a Mom holding a baby at one of her hands then her daughter the other. The little girl holding bread in her hand and the other hand is closing her eyes cuz there’s bodies laying dead on the street their passing in a hurry. Then a painting of a photograph of a girl that die at the war, and many others. But some I found also beautiful without “war” message on it, it’s painting of flower or still-live. Stepping on the ground floor it’s more to contemporary art from local and international artist, and most of it I think got influenced from French colonial. Hm, why we don’t have such museum in Indonesia? I thought we do have quite a lot famous artist and need not to question how they produced quite a lot of work that fit not only one museum.
After Museum we went to Ben Thanh Market, one of the famous markets in HCMC. Qin got something else to do so only Hung accompanied us. We decided to walk there, and tell you what, crossing the street in HCMC is one hell of experience that you must have if you ever visit the city. The art of crossing the street is you need to keep moving forward, don’t pay too much attention to what vehicles coming to you because they will spontaneously maneuvering to avoid you, the worst thing you’ll get is a loud honk. But do you know that Vietnam = Honk Country? They’ll honk for no reason, they’ll honk for anything! I mean it when I say anything!! So don’t expect a peaceful walking on the pavement, except you bring your iPod . Anyway, to get to Ben Thanh Market we need to 3 or 4 times crossing the street, I get better and better, but my sister, she’s crazy, never hesitate! Hahaha.
Inside Ben Thanh market is just as chaotic as in another market in Indonesia. The only different is everybody yelling in Vietnam language here and… Oh it’s a lot cleaner here than in Indonesia. Some of the shop attendant wearing blue backless dress with flower pattern that look so sexy. I need to remind you that if you speak English, they’ll give you 3 times the standard price there, so don’t hold back, bargain as crazy as you can. If they said it US$ 12, ask for US$3, then the final price will be around US$4 or 5. No worries, if one or two shop won’t give you good price (and cursing at you in Vietnamese language ) you can always find another shop attendant where it’s easier to bargain. We shopped quite a lot. And my sister, she’s furious when it’s come to bargain, none of the sales can stop her! She can bargain for half an hour to get half price, man! That’s one crazy talent! I could see how frustrated the sales dealing with her. Hahaha. My O my. After spending around 2,5 hours at the market, we walked back to the hotel. Hung already look so tired poor her. We thanked her so much for the day.
Back at hotel we lay down for a while, took a bath and then embarked to the night life of HCMC. We went to the night market, Qin said it’s quite fun there, so we go to the night market that still around Ben Thanh and found a lot of shop by the side of the street. Woman will always be woman, we shopped again as if we didn’t get enough this afternoon. Why? Because we just found out that shopping at night market things are cheaper than inside the market, and it’s easier to bargain. Really. Tired of walking around and several times almost hit by motorcycle, we were of course need a rest. There are many food stall there, and the waitresses are yelling and almost literally drag you to seat on their stall and one waitress succeeded to drag us seat on his stall. Unfortunately, he can’t speak English, so it took another 15 minutes to order food, I’m starving, but I can’t stop laughing to see the scene of language gap between my sister and the waiter. We don’t have to speak in full sentence here, it’ll confuse them just say three words the most, it’ll make your life easier. The food’s taste was average, nothing special but, seriously, the coconut looks so pretty! I love coconut drink. Wherever you go in Vietnam, I think you’ll find coconut served like the one in the picture, always like that.
I was really want to go to the bar and have couple of beers, but my stomach is full and my feet a bit aching, so finally my sister and I decided to end the day and go to sleep instead, because tomorrow is going to be one long day for us – according to our plan.
It’s a great 1st day.