It all blends together at this point, but I know I didn’t sleep well during the night. This might have been the night I was up in the middle of the night for an hour or two but managed to get back to sleep. But the jet lag hit me hard over the next week or so and it was pretty common for me to be waking up at 4 or 5.
After breakfast we tried to book a tour but all our credit cards were declined. Jenn hadn’t informed her bank but I had informed mine. I was quite frustrated.
We went to a grocery store for a reason I now don’t remember but ended up loading up on weird Asian drinks, some of which were more successful than others.
Then we walked by a temple but realized we were not dressed appropriately so we shouldn’t go inside.
After that we went to the market, which every Vietnamese city has. I ended up buying a bunch of dried fruit for reasons I won’t go into and some of it I had never had before, such as dried guava and soursop. (I bought a more commercial version of the soursop later and it was totally different. So that’s interesting.)
Then Jenn went to the bank and we discovered that it was a credit card problem (at least for her) rather than a bank problem.
Just walking around downtown and in the hot market made us hot so we went back to the hotel and swam.
In the afternoon we headed to the botanical gardens which in Saigon are really a botanical gardens cum zoo cum amusement park. We read about how horrible the conditions were in the zoo beforehand, but it was only some of the cages where the treatment seemed really bad. As Jenn said, most of the cages were like North American zoos were a few decades ago. The botanical gardens are quite large in part because of what is contained within them, and there are some pretty buildings at the gate. So it’s a nice walk (aside from the conditions of some of the animals) and it’s so much calmer than the rest of the city. But I don’t think it’s one of the required sights of HCMC.
We were basically soaked after the botanical gardens – this was one of the hottest days of the trip – and so we decided to go to a brewery, something we like to do when we travel and something I particularly wanted to do in Saigon because of the relatively large number of them in the city.
We decided on Heart of Darkness simply because it was most on the way back from the gardens to the hotel, and it turned out to be the right choice. I haven’t been to many breweries compared to the number of beers I’ve tried, but of the handful of breweries I’ve personally been to outside of North America, Heart of Darkness is the best. By a mile. I don’t know how to feel about the name – taken from a book set in Africa that was the inspiration for a movie set during the Vietnam War – but the IPAs are high end for North America.
Now, some of this might have come from our very low expectations, or the fact that they had AC and we were so damn hot, but the IPAs were really excellent, and the other beers were decent, except for the Imperial Stout, which was not great. (I should point out that we had a porter of theirs in Hanoi that was excellent, so they can do dark sometimes.)
The food prices at the brewery insane so we went looking for food. After a while, we walked down an alley and sat in a restaurant and ate a meal like we had never had before, with weird shaped cold noodles, deep-fried tofu, herbs and Vietnamese sausage.
Calling my bank after I went to the brewery was probably not the best choice but we needed to figure out what was going on. I was frustrated because I had informed Tangerine that I was travelling but, moreover, a hold had been put on my card twice in the last month before travelling, as I tried to purchase train tickets and a visa for this trip. It was getting annoying. Then, I was put on hold. So, I’m sorry to say I lost it on the Tangerine employee. As much as I can lose it, anyway. I eventually apologized for getting mad at him, as it wasn’t his fault, but I did get mad and I still feel bad about it. And I’m so glad I’m not in customer service. Anyway, after I got transferred to the appropriate department and after that happened Skype dropped the call and I had to call back. Eventually, after what felt like an hour (but was probably closer to 30 minutes), I found out that it wasn’t Tangerine but rather it was MasterCard’s algorithm that was causing the problems. So it didn’t matter that I had informed Tangerine, MasterCard just decides that my purchases are out of character and puts a hold on the card. But fortunately the Tangerine employee was able to tell me why it was happening and I was able to avoid the problem for the rest of the trip.
Anyway, we managed to book the tour.
A nighttime swim in the rooftop pool had, at this point, become a tradition for us, so that’s what we did when we got back to the hotel. (Because it’s nice to do, because it’s a nice view, and because it was the only way I was staying awake once we returned to the hotel.)