Touchdown to HCMC
Coming out of the airport in Ho Chi Minh, you will be surpised with the droves of local Vietnamese waiting for their new guests and loved ones coming back to their land, flowers in tow. They are a loving and hospitable people, with smiles in their faces, welcoming you to their land.
As we walked out of the exit area, taxi drivers started to ask us, in a language still foreign to us, for a ride to the city, to the apartment where we will be living for her stay here in Vietnam. One taxi driver offered 10 USD for the trip, but good thing we were instructed to ask for abt 4-5USD for the trip, I politely turned down his offer, then asked the next taxi driver. I asked 5 dollars for the ride, and he politely obliged, which I thought then was a good deal already.As the taxi drove out of the airport and into the city, we were suprised to see so many bikes on the road, and quickly realized that it is their form of transport, from the old trusty bicycle.
Like any other Asian country I have gone to, Ho Chi Minh was not any different. The roads are quite good, not too many potholes, and you could see many small stores selling their wares on the side of the road. We also saw a Jollibee store in one of the small malls they have here, and of course, San Miguel Beer ads. I felt a feeling of pride to see our local brands venturing into other countries, and able to penetrate their market here. - mmss
Need A Visa To Get In
In order to enter Vietnam, you must have a visa. I spoke with some locals while I was in the country and they said that the Vietnamese government was thinking of getting rid of the requirement but for now it is still required. A liitle tidbit I didn't know when I first traveled is that if you are of Vietnamese descent or traveling with someone of Vietnamese descent the visa is cheaper. For a 1 month single entry visa, the embassy charges $60. However if you are traveling with someone of Vietnamese descent the fee is only $30. The turn around time for the visa is about 2 weeks. Click this link for the website for the Vietnamese Embassy in the U.S. www.vietnamembassy-usa.org
I just like to look around when I walk in a city, and make (silly and stupid, I admit!) links between the things or people I observe, the general atmosphere, what I have see elsewhere. . . . Saigon is a capital city for bikes and bicycles, and of course, the local police rides bikes too; they have big machines and looking closely at the guys and their machines I thought the streets of Saigon and surroundings must not be very good, and the administration takes care of the bodies of the mounted police; look (first picture), they all are wearing corsets, as they are probably shaken a lot when they bike at high speed. . . the corsets give them a special elegance. . . . They have an exhausting job, and here (picture 2) they have a rest.
Ah! But the corsets are only for the elite troops apparently; here (picture 3) the police have smaller bikes, small helmets, and do not have corsets. . . . Only silly remarks. . .
On day 6, we proceed to Thoi Son, a town in the Mekong Delta. We got to sample fresh fruits from the orchards, learn how the local people make the famous coconut candy and also look at how they extract honey from bees. We also had an enjoyable boat trip along Mekong River and was accompanied by a very good English-speaking Viet. guide.
The shop is just down the street from the An An Hotel. It is an art gallery that sells art made out of monarch butterfly wings. At first I was a bit freaked out as I don't support killing butterflies for art but the monarch butterfly lives for a day or so and this is how the artist collects them. We stumbled upon this place by accident. It is butterfly wing art. The gallery is amazing and the artwork is so reasonable. The photos I attached does not do it justice. My aunt bought a piece of the artwork one day and I went back the next day to buy 4 pieces. One of the pieces I wanted was sold out and they said they would call the artist to work up a piece for me the next day in the late evening as I was leaving then. As luck would have it, when I went the next evening to pick up all 4 pieces, the shy artist was there. He came in to deliver the artwork and I kind of called him out to his workers as he spoke no english. He signed and named my pieces on the back. They were named but they made labels for me. I felt a little guilty because EVERYTHING in the artwork is some form of monarch butterfly. Supposedly they are already dead and aren't "killed" for the sake of art. I had a little problem with this. Shocking at how inexpensive they are. The artwork is about $45 US for a 12x15 and with a frame, an additional $5 US. Altogether I spent $186 US for 4 pieces.