We woke up early but not as early as we would on subsequent days. We went down to breakfast and found an elaborate breakfast buffet, which would become a theme of our trip, as only one hotel we stayed at wouldn’t have one. I had noodles as well because, in my jet lagged state, I guess I assumed that’s what Vietnamese eat for breakfast.
After breakfast we visited the harrowing War Remnants Museum, which chronicles what the Vietnamese usually refer to as “The American War”, a fitting name for a conflict the Americans call The Vietnam War. (If I remember correctly there is also a little bit about the “War of Liberation: against the French.) If you can handle it, the museum is a must-visit, despite the sometimes heavy-handed propaganda. The museum chronicles the devastation the United States wrought in Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. If you don’t know much about the Vietnam War, this is eye-opening. If you do know anything about it, it’s just confirmation of the disastrous intervention by the US to “prevent the spread of communism”. The propaganda is there, but it’s not that much worse than American propaganda in their museums about their wars, it’s just a little more noticeable (and unsubtle). Anyway, if you visit a museum in Saigon, make it this one. (Strong stomach required.)
After the museum we walked across the downtown looking for a pagoda. I’m not ever sure we found it as we found one we noticed on the drive in from the airport. But the map said it was on the other side of the street. It was pretty impressive but it looked like we couldn’t go inside so we turned back. Later on, on our drive out of the city either to the Mekong Delta or to the airport, I noticed a pagoda on the correct side of the street, a few store-fronts after we stopped walking. Oops.
We wandered back towards our hotel and found a place to get a drink. (We would soon learn this was a chain as well.) I drank something very weird which I cannot remember right now, but my guess it was unripe guava or something like that. Jenn had a coffee, I think.
We skipped lunch and went for a swim at the hotel because we had booked a food tour for the afternoon/evening.
Our Saigon/HCMC food tour was one of the highlights of the trip, on it, we ate the following:
- Bánh Xèo (pancake)
- Gỏi Cuốn (fresh spring rolls)
- Phở (beef noodle soup)
- Bột Chiên (fried dough)
- Bánh Tráng Trộn (rice paper salad)
- Bánh Phồng Nướng (roasted rice cracker)
- Bánh Tráng Nướng (Vietnamese pizza)
- Chả Lụi (skewer pork)
- Bánh Mì
- Xôi (sticky rice)
- Cơm Cháy (fried overcooked-rice)
- Hủ Tíu Bò Viên (vermicelli with beef ball)
- Ốc (assorted shellfish)
- Bánh Flan
- plus some juices and beer.
That’s a lot of food, as you might imagine. And we didn’t finish the last few things. But it was a full range of food available in Saigon. And it set the standard for food tours in the country and compared very favourably with food tours we’ve taken other places. Additionally we walked through parts of the city we probably never would have made it into on our own (because of the location of our hotel and because of how labyrinthine Vietnamese alleys are).
Stuffed and tired, we once again fell asleep way too early.