Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sightseeing in HCMC

 City hall 

 Park in front of city hall

 Vincom Center 

 Notre Dame Cathedral
 Inside the cathedral

 Central Post Office
 Inside the post office

 Chinese fairytale book
 Book shop street
 Fun in the park

 Walk along the riverfront 

 Jasmine bonsai trees 

 Pretty in pink
 Sunflowers in the Botanic gardens
 Map of the zoo and gardens 

 Crocodile garden

 Hello, deer
 Elephants home 
 A beautiful leopard
 Green Water dragons

 Common iguana

 Trees in the zoo grounds

 Botanic gardens
Bonsai trees 

 The butterfly house

The orchid house  

 Pink ibis bird at the zoo
An arrangement of orchids in the botanic gardens
 The Reunification Palace
 Our local park

We have been in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly Saigon, for nearly two weeks now, longer than we thought we would stay, and we have really enjoyed ourselves here. Part of the reason why we stayed longer than expected was, because of a mess up with the dates of our original visas, we wanted to extend our stay in Vietnam until April. After spending an hour waiting at the immigration office in HCMC we were told by the unhelpful assistant that we should go to a travel agency to extend our visas. Seriously?? This is the immigration office we are talking about! Today we received our passports back from the travel agency, with new stamps in extending our stay, and stamped underneath is a stamp reading 10 USD, 50USD less than what we paid to have them extended. Nathan and I just looked at each other and shook our heads, things work a little bit differently here in SE Asia.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings... what have we done here in HCMC?

Ho Chi Minh City Hall
 The City Hall is a beautiful French Colonial building, and the park in front of the building is very pristine and pretty, filled with frangipani trees and hibiscus flowers. It is a very beautiful part of town. In front of the City Hall there is a big bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh, and the whole strip of park is pedestrian only.

Next on our walk we passed the Vincom Centre, a shopping mall, office and apartment complex, complete with rooftop garden. The shopping mall is huge, and goes several floors below ground. It was a heaven for a shopaholic like me. We liked the authentic Parisian bakery on the food court floor, where we bought some yummy baguettes. There is also a really good bookshop in the mall with loads of books in English, and lots of children's books. We bought Charlotte a book there, and it wasn't overly expensive either.

Notre Dame Cathedral is a tall church located next to a quiet park and the Central Post Office. The cathedral was built in the late 1880s by French colonists. After months of seeing many temples in SE  Asia it was an interesting change to see a cathedral, and it definitely gives this part of the city a European vibe. This, along with the Central Post Office, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel, which despite the fact that it is still a working post office it is a major tourist attraction, with its beautiful arched ceilings and green shuttered windows.

The street next to the post office is filled with book shops and second hand book stalls. I fell in love walking down this street, as I'm a big book lover. Most of the shops sold books only in Vietnamese, but the second hand book stalls had a good selection of English books.

To the rear of the cathedral you can cross the road over to a quiet park, with plenty of trees for shade and benches to sit on. At the end of the park you can see the Reunification Palace which is fully open to tourists, providing there are no official events happening there. The palace was built in the 60's and still retains its classic sixties style, everything from the president's bedroom, to the game's room is perfectly preserved from when the North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates in 1975. Some highlights for me from the palace included the views of the grounds from the rooftop, and main balconies; the president's ensuite bathroom in groovy sixties tiles; and the large paintings in the hallway on the top floor. The grounds surrounding the palace are very beautiful, and nice to stroll through with their tall and twisted trees.

We had heard mixed reviews about the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, however we found the gardens very pleasant to stroll through. Admittedly, some of the animal enclosures at the start of the zoo were very poor and in need of an update. However, overall we enjoyed an afternoon here walking beneath the tall shady trees and admiring the beautiful plants and flowers, from sunflowers to orchids. The bonsai trees lined up in the gardens were also a highlight.

Despite the insanely busy traffic here, as in the whole of Vietnam, we have managed to do a lot of walking. Thankfully it is not uncommon here to see babies being pushed around in strollers, sometimes on the road because the footpath is too damaged or is clogged with parked motorbikes 😝
Anyway, there are some good green parks to stroll through, including one just across the road from our hotel, and we also took a walk along the river.

Our last thing on our to do list here is to go up on the skydeck of the 64 story tall Bitexco financial tower. Hopefully we'll get a nice clear day to go up there before we leave!

Thanks for reading,
Hannah xx