We took full advantage of the Lao Women’s Union public holiday to have a long weekend down in Saigon. We arrived into Ho Chi Minh early evening, and the immigration halls were full to over-flowing. It is times like this that our APEC cards allow us to bypass the crowds and go down the special channels – and we feel very, very grateful. As we had only carry-on, we were soon standing outside waiting for the airport bus to leave. $1 and 25 minutes later we hopped off the bus and walked the 200 meters to our hotel. We stayed in the same place as our last time (Little Saigon Boutique) as the rate and the location couldn’t be bettered.
Day One was wandering around the District 1 area, taking in few familiar places and shops and checking out some new additions. We visited the Fine Art Museum for the 1st time. The locals seem to go there to use it as an Instagram background, but there was an interesting mix of art. The impacts of the American War were prominent themes in much of the post 1975 works.
We headed off to Secret Garden restaurant for a very nice Vietnamese lunch. And then around the corner to Maison Marou, a superb chocolate shop. Andrew previously rated their Brownie as one of the best he has ever had. A re-sampling this year supported that statement, and he maintains it is his favourite in the world. We did pick up a couple of pieces the following day to bring back to Vientiane.
In the evening we went to the AO Show at 6 pm in the Saigon Opera House. It allowed us to see inside the opera house and also to enjoy a very good show. Sometimes it is described as the Bamboo Cirque du Soleil. It was a one hour of acrobatics and energy telling the story of Vietnam through to modern day. Their use of bamboo and props was stunning.
After the show we headed off to the nearby Secret Garden restaurant – it isn’t a chain, but has 3 restaurants in the inner city and we frequented 2 of those locations multiple times in our short trip. The spring rolls would also be on Andrew’s best in the world list. The downside of this location was the tables are at knee height and we had to curl ourselves up to eat.
The next morning we go on the local bus and made our way over to Chinatown. We had booked to go on a mystery tour which was expected to take the morning to do – The Strange case of Dr Lam. The lady who met us was super impressed we used the buses. I did end up in the opposite seat to the lady in the picture below, with my chin resting on my knees due to the wheel dome, while Andrew sat quite comfortably with a nice flat area for his feet. We did like the hanging hand holds, which were a cup of noodle advertisement
The concept for the morning was that Dr Lam had been murdered and we had been called in to solve the murder. We were given the scenario and a set of clues and sent off to solve the murder – a sort of hybrid structured walking tour and role playing game. We finished just before 13:00. Up until the last hour we had enjoyed the process, getting the clues, moving from place to place, meeting “contacts”, but in the last hour we felt the concept lost it’s way a little. We got stuck on a clue at a Chinese temple and weren’t sure where to go next. Anyways, we solved the mystery, and eventually found the final steps. Andrew was highly impressed with my ability to break codes and still has no idea how I could do it.
We did move to the nearby Rex Hotel for our last night as we couldn’t get a 3rd night in the room we wanted at the Saigon Boutique Hotel. The Rex is a bit of an institution in Saigon and it was interesting seeing the high society weddings being hosted there on the Saturday night. We headed back to the Secret Garden for a final meal
And a lovely photo of Andrew in art-viewing mode, with his fan and shopping bag