23.12.2011 - 26.12.2011 78 °F
I feel that I owe everyone something light-hearted again, after such a serious post on Christmas Day. Plus, I still owe you some pictures of my hotel in Saigon, and my hotel here at the beach in Nha Trang.
Also, I should give you an update on my second meeting with Quy. I enjoyed a late breakfast on the 26th, then asked the owner of my hotel where I could go near the museum to hang out. He said that the museum was closed on Mondays, but gave me the name an address of a place to visit near the Reunification Palace (formerly the home of the President of South Vietnam). I know that lots of museums are closed on Mondays since they're usually open on the weekends, but he told me that there was a chance Quy might still be in the area trying to sell his books.
So I went to a little cafe named "Au Parc" and had a drink and some spinach artichoke dip with breadsticks and crudites (I had to look that word up - the French sounds much nicer than "sliced veggies"), then made my way to the museum. It was open (I thought I had seen a notice that said it was open every day, other than during their lunch hours), so I bought another ticket and found Quy almost exactly where I had run into him the previous day.
We sat down in the shade and chatted a bit while I looked through his books, before buying two. I really enjoyed talking with him and my heart felt much lighter than it had the afternoon previously. I got to learn several things about him, such as the fact that he's also missing his right leg (he showed me his prosthesis, which starts somewhere above the knee), that he has two children, that he likes to collect foreign money (I gave him some of the Chinese money I had with me) and that the woman selling drinks nearby takes care of him at work. She holds his other books at her drink station and can bring him new ones when he's sold any, and I also saw her take money that he'd made during the day and transfer it to the wallet in his back pocket for him. He said she's like his mom, and I agreed that it's nice to have extra moms. I didn't try to talk to her, but she did indeed have a very kind smile.
I can't adequately describe just how much better I felt yesterday. I wish I'd had even more time with Quy, but after a few minutes of talking, he got up to try to sell more books. He was at work, after all. I'm so glad that museum was open again and I got a happy ending to my story! And I hope that Quy can soon afford the new prosthesis he said he needs.
I'm including some pictures of my hotel "Ma Maison" now. When I first started looking for hotels in Saigon and saw this one, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to stay here. Unfortunately, when I first tried to make a reservation, there were no available rooms. I don't really know why I looked again a month or two later, but there was a room available. It was the biggest, most expensive room, but without any hesitation, I booked it. While the previous hotel was in the most beautiful surroundings, I think Ma Maison had some of the most charming rooms I've stayed in. Judge for yourselves...
The dining room
French Doors open onto a balcony (not much to look at outside, though)
Orchids in the courtyard
Since I didn't join a tour group for my vacation, I looked for short one day or half-day tours I could take. There were quite a few motorbike tours to choose from in Saigon (that's probably the best way to see the city), so I chose one called XO Tours. The reason I chose this one is primarily because all the drivers are women. I didn't want to have to hang on to some strange man through traffic, so I went for the women instead. However, after about 5 minutes, I felt comfortable enough that I didn't need to hang on to the driver or the bike. I enjoyed the tour and the feeling of being on a motorbike so much, I'm seriously considering buying one in Shanghai!
My guide, Nga, for a motorbike tour in Saigon
At the Opera House
Ho Chi Minh Square with Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in the background
Inside the Post Office
Notre Dame Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral
The confessional area
Another panning shot
At the Reunification Palace - the war effectively ended when a tank drove through the outer gate on April 30, 1975
No, I didn't get to drive - this was just for the picture
Inside the Jade Emperor Pagoda
The dog is wrapped up because he has a skin infection
The other travellers from our tour - they're from Japan, Malaysia & Singapore. I even ran into the guy from Singapore the next day, the travelling community seems to be that small here. It actually wasn't the first time I've run into a person I'd met previously here in Vietnam
If you asked me to think of one word to describe each place I've been in Vietnam, my word for Saigon would have to be "rumbling." The noise on the streets is absolutely incredible and has to be heard to be believed. Especially at a traffic light. All you can hear is the rumble of hundreds, if not thousands of motorbikes, just waiting to get moving again. It was exciting to be on a motorbike myself and in the midst of the chaos. You certainly do feel like you're part of the pulse of the city.
Christmas Eve traffic
I just love how you can see one driver waiting in the midst of all the traffic going around him
Yes, that's Santa on the motorbike in the middle of the picture
A family (presumably) on a scooter. The most people I saw on one scooter was 5, but I was in a taxi and didn't have my camera out to get a picture.
A delivery motorbike
It's a real cathedral, but looks like it belongs at Disney World