off we go! travel blog

Hotel Continental Saigon

HCMC - City Hall

Had a quiet relaxed day wandering around Saigon as most people still seem to call it. In truth there is not that much to see really - we had already decided to give the Reunification Palace a miss, as I felt I had seen enough Communist propaganda during my student days in these 1970s. The most impressive buildings date from the French colonial heyday of the early 20th century, beautiful art nouveau inspired buildings. The post office is particularly grand with sweeping arches and a vast hall which reminds me of old railway stations, all very romantic were it not for the stalls of tourist tat either side. As we were walking up to the post office , we were approached rather nervously by 3 young people wearing identical uniform . They giggled and asked whether they could practise their English on us. They were all pharmacy students, but learning English was vital for career prospects and to be able to communicate with tourists! 20 minutes later we finally said goodbye and they seemed really excited to have had a chance to practise their spoken English on real Brits for the first time.

After this we found ourselves at yet another market, slightly frustrated not being able to buy coffee, as we have nowhere to prepare it and will not be allowed to take it into Oz, and it smelled so good. All was fairly routine until we got to the clothing section and I made the mistake of looking at a shirt. A chorus of "I have your size madam" from the dozen or so stall holders around rose up..... I like to think of myself as a vague feminist, but sometimes it is handy to be able to say " my husband doesn't like it, so I can't buy it!" Looks of disgust all around!

It is sometimes hard to believe that this is supposed to be a communist state, the Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Chanel shops are vast and temples to consumerism, which contrast horribly with the people outside holding out their hands asking for money. There are amputees and some really distressing disabilities. Shoe shine guys approach every time you stop to look around, and I've lost count of the number of massage offers I've had to turn down on Steve's behalf!

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