8/22 Friday

Our friend T is arriving in Saigon today, so we thought we’d save one tourist sight to go with him. Unfortunately, it was the most disappointing place of our whole trip, and we didn’t even meet up with T.

The Reunification Palace is NOT recommended. Now, I usually love museums and historical places, but this “palace”, to use the term loosely, has nothing special in it. The conference room, the dining room, the meeting room….it doesn’t get any better. There were very few pictures, a map, plain architecture, plain walls, no portraits, no artwork. On a hot afternoon with no air conditioning in the building, I barely made it through the 4 stories of the building. I couldn’t wait to get back into the taxi to take us home. When we got to the front door at home, T called looking for us. “Don’t go to the palace, it’s a waste of time,” I warned him. But it was too late. He was there looking for us inside.

Before going to the Reunification Palace, we went shopping at Saigon Square 2. The shopping is not as good as Saigon Square 1, but it was nevertheless fun to walk around all the vendors. But after the 10th stall, they all look alike selling pretty much the same ware.

We walked from there through some construction areas to the riverfront. Construction workers were having their lunch break with food delivered to them on a motorbike. Ice was delivered too, and I wonder in this heat, how much ice the driver started with.

There wasn’t too much to see at the river. From there we walked to the area of nice hotels and found a respite from the heat in a little french cafe for lunch and a cold drink (the coconut milkshake was the best.) We found a market that sells “American” food such as Lindora chocolates, Jiffy peanut butter, Special K cereal, etc., at expensive prices. In our walk, we crossed some major streets with lots of traffic. It’s do or die, and we made it across without incident. We’re getting pretty good at it now.

I have to say, I would never do this much walking at home. Here, we walk several blocks at a time and think nothing of it. And I’m walking in my sandals. At home, I drive across the parking lot to get from one store to another. If I walk, I made sure I wear my padded walking shoes. You don’t know what you can live through till you travel. I think I’m braver and stronger after Vietnam.

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