Vietnam 2012: Day 8 - The End

Part 1: Hoi An and My Son, Part 2: Hoi An - Da Nang - Hue, Part 3: Hue, Part 4: Train Ride + Saigon, Part 5: Saigon, Part 6: The End

Finally! Final post of the Vietnam trip!

On the last day, since our flight was on 1pm, we decided to walk around HCM City on our own, with a limited time, which means no much places to go.

The night before, we had a list of places to select from: Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office, Reunification Palace (you should listen to me and Tino pronounce this place), War Remnants Museum, Giac Lam Pagoda, Thien Hau Pagoda and Cholon Chinatown. The final decision was Cholon and War Remnants Museum, based on TripAdvisor reviews and comments.

We got out from hotel as early as 8am, with concern we might be there 'helping the people open their shop' (which means we are there too darn early). Fortunately, the day started early at Binh Tay Market, Cholon. The hawkers were already beginning their business, piling up stocks and stuff.

Early morning at Cholon Market
Quoted and summarized from Wikipedia:
Cholon, the largest Chinatown in Vietnam, is a Chinese-influenced section of HCM City, having Binh Tay Market as its central market. Cholon consists of District 5 and 6, and since it was some distance away from our hotel (District 1), this place required an 'individual' tour.

Unlike Ben Thanh Market, Binh Tay market is more of the local Vietnamese Market style. The market is divided section by section, walking in it felt somewhat like a maze, the first minute you would bump into stalls after stalls selling hats and masks, next minute medicines and skin/body care products, the next would be kitchenware and stuff. In here, you can find a wide range of products in abundance. I was literally wide-eyed when I saw the hats and helmets and periuks etc were stacked in pile, so many of them! Unlike the 'tourists' market too, the hawkers would not pester you with key chains and 'I Heart Pho' t-shirts endlessly.

Various type of face masks

Macam-macam hats!! (Excuse my finger =.=)

Macam-macam helmets!!!

Macam-macam periuk!!
After some brief walk covering almost all part of the market, we walked around the roads in front of the market to see how the town started their morning (and to see where can we take a bus back to District 1).

Here, I must warn you, be extreme careful with your belongings! When we walked along a road, I was at the most front, suddenly a motorbike accelerated and zoomed off to the street. Being really close to us, I sensed something must not right as the riders looked back at us and smiled maliciously when they zoomed off to the traffic light. It turned out that, they snatched SY's gold necklace from her neck!!! Her gold pendant dropped when the necklace broke, so that's a keeper, yet the gold necklace worth quite a fortune too. Keong said he noticed the motorbike had been following us in  suspiciously close distance (since he walked last among us), and when the rider turned the accelerator, it was too late. In this case, SY's gold necklace was indeed very 'revealing' as the necklace was the 'Princess necklace',  she always wear round neck T-shirts and her short hair is nowhere near to hide the gold necklace from behind too. So, people, careful!!

We tried another effort to feel like local: taking the bus back to District 1.
On the bus
Back to town centre, we rushed our way to War Remnants Museum for the sake of limited time.
Saw and passed by Ben Thanh Market in day time for the first time
War museums are always my favorite. Visiting this museum without understanding Vietnam War feels like ordering a curry mee in a chicken rice shop I am super sucks in metaphor LOL. So, I tried to put in as many information as I can get from this museum and study about the war when I back to Malaysia. Time allocation was one hour.

Immediately spotted this place when stepped foot into the museum compound
The first stop was 'Tiger Cage', re-enact of the prison used during Vietnam War. This kind of place is also always my favorite. It often reflects what/how was it really like during the war, though sometimes it won't feel pleasant being in such a place (such as when I visited Toul Sleng Museum in Cambodia).


Other exhibits include graphic photography at the few floors of air-conditioned building. Some reviews and comments in TripAdvisor said that the exhibits are full of propaganda and Anti-American, but since I don't understand the war, I looked at the exhibits objectively. I had to do so too because I had limited time, so I simply glanced through the images and captions. The part where they show pictures of Agent Orange victims was heart-breaking.


The outside of the museum displays spoils of war, namely jets, tanks and cannons. I had to wait for another 15 minutes because Tino and Keong missed 'tiger cages' and went it for a quick glimpse. We walked back to hotel in fighter-jet speed as it's nearing check-out time and the time we booked our taxi to airport.

Our plane, taxiing
The last surprise is, the airport is so near to the city!

Footnote:
1) Keep all your gold and silver and eye-catching accessories at your home, especially if it is a heirloom; Or, wear it under your clothes.
2) VND (Vietnam Dong) is more commonly used than USD, and some departmental stores don't accept USD. Make sure you prepare more VND. USD is usable at markets and shops, you can pay at USD and ask for VND changes. Make sure you have a quick mathematical brain for currency conversion too.
3) Don't take language as a barrier between yourselves and the locals. You can always use hand/sign language and have a happy chat with them!
4) I converted RM 2000 to USD 500 (rate at the time is RM 3.07 for USD1) and 1 million VND.
5) My expenses: RM 450 for flight; USD 200 (RM 614) for Mr. Philong's tour arrangement and stuff; RM 200 for hotel and stuff; RM 100 go in shared account; spent all 1 million VND (RM 160); personal expenses USD 65 (RM 200)= approximately RM1,700!
The exact amount might differ as I did not jot down the whole spending thoroughly, but it definitely less than RM2,000 including flight!! A good bargain for a 8D7N trip :D In fact, I did not spend a penny from the converted USD - the remaining USD 300 after paying tour fee; I used the leftovers (USD 150) from my Cambodia trip and I still have USD 100 left from there.

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