|Got up this morning, pulled back the curtains and the rain had stopped, the sky was still cloudy and slightly grey but luckily no percipitation. Had breakfast at the hotel, baguette, omlette and strawberry jam, you can tell Vietnam was a French colony, washed down with some very nice pineapple juice and Vietnamese coffee, which is very sweet, ok for me, but Angie had tea.!!! Took a long stroll across town to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo, crossing many roads on the way. Now that is not as easy as it sounds as every junction looks like the starting grid at Donnington Park and there are millions of motorbikes on the roads here. We are getting quite good at crossing the roads now after our earlier trepidation. The secret is to just go for it, almost close you eyes and hope nothing hits you.
The zoo although not my normal idea of a fun time at least gave us some peace and quiet and a few hours without the constant sound of a car or bike horn. Angie likes her flowers so the botanical garden bit was also of interest and at 25p each entry, was fairly good value for a mornings entertainment. The animals were fairly scruffy on the whole and the zoo didnt seem particularly well cared for. The most prolific animal we saw was the rat, which could be seen running around everywhere, the two zoo cats looked rather skinny considering the amount of free food that was running around. The Cages lacked inspiration and the animals seemed to have very little room to move. Angie did take loads of pictures though and a vast majority of the 130 she took today were at the zoo, mainly she says because the animals kept moving. As we wandered around the zoo, the weather returned to the humid sunny climate to which we had become accustomed.
After the zoo we went to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, which is Saigons most atmospheric temple. The temple was thick with the smell of incense and crowded with tourists and worshippers. It feels quite strange to me that there we are taking photographs and wandering around the place while the local community, continue with their worship.
Despite being a religous building there appears to me to still be scams going on. As you enter a man tries to sell you goldfish in a bag, telling you if you release them into the pond in the temple you will get good luck. The pond is full of these goldfish, call me cynical but what is to stop them fishing them out again that evening and selling them back to you the next day. You can also buy turtles of the same man to let loose in the other pond and no doubt the same scam. Inside the temple you can buy bottles of oil that fire the lamps. The oil is poured by the worshipers into the lamps, most of the oil pours out of the lamps and runs into a large container that is then used to refill the bottles and sold on to the next lot of worshippers. This is vietnam.We left the temple before we were overcome with the smell of incense and walked our merry way to the Reunification (Presidential) Palace hoping to get there before it closed today. Managed to get there 15 minutes before it closed, as we were delayed on the way drinking beer and eating pho. As we found out it is only the ticket office that closes at 4pm, the palace remains open longer than this and there doesnt seem any hurry to through you out. The palace was built in the 70's and has a real feel about it for that time. There is plenty of glass and a very 70s feel to the decor. This is also the palace where there famous picture of the tank crashing through the entrance gate at the end of the Vietnam war took place. There was quite a bit of excitement when we were there as there was a fire, one of the chairs in the theatre area was ablaze and the security officials had to put it out. There was smoke everywhere (no alarms went off) and the smell was not pleasant, I dont suppose the chair was up to British Kite Mark standards. Unfortuantely we didnt get a photograph of this incident as Angie had taken to many pictures of monkeys and lizards that the battery on the camera was flat.
On the way back to the hotel we picked up savouries and cakes for the 7 hour coach journey we have down to Chau Doc tomorrow, where we will stay overnight, before boarding a boat up the Mekon to Cambodia.