Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 2 - HCMC - Revisiting Dad's Old Home

We spend the majority of the day getting more acclimated with the City and seeing some of the popular landmarks.

The first stop was the Independence Palace (Reunification Palace) - originally built by the French during colonization as the Indochina Governor Palace, and then the home and workplace for the South Vietnamese president. This was the site of the end of the Vietnam War when the North invaded and the South handed over control. The current architecture of the building began in 1962 and was completed in 1966. There is a very mod and retro feel to the architecture of the building as well as the interior design. My sister said it reminded her of a UCLA building...I'm thinking maybe a North Campus Building? Public Policy? One thing you can't miss for sure is the incessant and endless whistling from the cicadas in the area.

After that, we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office, where a huge picture of Ho Chi Minh hangs at the back. My sister wrote some postcards for home, but I opted to wait until further along in my trip. Send me your addresses everyone!

Next, we went to visit Dad's old home before he fled to California. It turned into a tea-shop, like many of the other homes on the busy street. We stopped by to visit the neighbor, and the grandmother that still lived there remembered him and my grandfather. Dad spoke with her for a while. We also looked around for his school, but he could not recollect the exact location since so much has changed in the 30 years he had been gone. He fled the country when he was in his early 20s. All of this has allowed me to ask my dad more questions about his life in Vietnam and how he ended up in California. I don't think I ever really asked him these questions, but it's fascinating to hear of some of the things he had to do to get to America.

Took a taxi to the Cholon area in the city. We visited the Thien Hau Pagoda, which had really intricate wood carvings all along the roof. There were numerous spiral incense coils hanging from the ceiling and burning incense throughout the central room - Very beautiful. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau - the Goddess of the Sea and Patroness of Sailors. I noticed that many french tourists were there and I was amazed that the Vietnamese tourguide could speak French so fluently...until I remembered that Vietnam used to be a French colony. How many times did I watch Indochine in French class in high school? Duh. 

The last temple we visited was the Quan Am Pagoda, which honors Kwan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. 

At the end of the night, we decided to have a hot pot dinner on a cruise ship, as it rode along the Saigon River - a bit touristy, but nonetheless fun.

The second day in, and we've basically decided that taking a taxi was affordable and mandatory for our survival in the humidity of HCMC. A day consists of walking the streets for about an hour at most, and then recovery in an AC'd taxi or luxury store, repeated many times during the day. I dread when I have to leave the taxi cab...

I saw the first motorcycle accident on my first full day in Vietnam. Despite this, I think it seems pretty safe driving around the city. Even though it's basically a clusterfuck of vehicles travelling in all directions, everyone is driving pretty slowly, maybe 30 mph max... Now...rush hour on a weekday is a whole 'nother story... We'll see if my opinions change. I'm still looking to take that perfect picture that conveys all this highway chaos I am speaking of...

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace) - Very Mod and Retro

Post Office and a Picture of Ho Chi Minh

Dad's Old Home in the City

Speaking with the neighbor, who remembers him!

Thien Hau Pagoda - Notice the wood carvings at the top of the Pagoda

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