Late into breakfast at 7.15 am. No Asian nonsense consumed this morning, good old British fayre, though the French did get a look in with their toast.
The rest of the morning was taken up with last-minute adjustments of the baggage, a shower and laying on the bed watching the National Geographic channel. What Sue doesn’t know about dangerous creatures isn’t worth knowing or is just plain tame. I did need a new lock for my case as the one on it had disappeared during the last flight. I found one across the road at what I guess was the Cambodian equivalent of ironmongers. I thought it might have been a problem seeking such a small lock, but not so. I pointed to a large one on the rack and indicated smaller, and as progressively smaller and smaller ones were presented, we eventually came to the one I wanted. Cost 25c and much better than the one it is replacing, though the box says it’s made in China, it certainly is more solid.
Pick-up time was 1.30 pm and we were at the reception to pay the bill for 12.50 pm. embarrassingly, I had worked the bill to be around $350 – $360 taking into account the cars, guides, meals, drinks etc. we had. And, when perusing the list of items on the bill (with my glasses for accuracy), they did indeed appear to add up to that amount. However, the reception staff insisted that the total to pay was $150. We pointed out their error, to which they brought out our signed slips and insisted on $150. Showing them the list of items on the bill and insisting they were wrong, got us nowhere. They had a look of panic on their faces, so we relieved their agony and gave them $150 and they smiled. Our driver turned up at that moment so we left feeling rather awkward and with fingers crossed that security would not arrest us at the airport.
Luckily they didn’t and in quick time we were sat in departures idling our time away. Sue bought some more trinkets in the duty-free and I tiddled about on Facebook, then bought a hotdog, which apart from the mustard was mock plastic. Ron and Jenny arrived and we chatted to them for a while before boarding the plane. The flight lasted less than an hour and then as usual we were through immigration and picking our bags off the belt first. The driver was there with my nameplate and we set off on the half-hour journey to the Paragon Hotel in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. The journey can only be described as a scene from Mario Kart, speeding weaving vehicles of all descriptions ignoring all courtesies to other road users and continually sounding their horns. There was no right or wrong way to proceed down a road or pavement, white lines are just for decoration and traffic lights are there to add colour. we set off 10 minutes before Ron and Jenny and arrived 10 minutes after. Probably because our driver was a fraction more careful than usual due to Sue ‘umming’ and ‘ahhhing’ at the near misses throughout our route.
We got there. Surprise, surprise we had been upgraded to an executive room on the top floor! I do like the Orientals. And to cap it all, we have a corner room with absolutely stunning views over the city, especially at night. I knew that sack of rice we bought was a good investment.
We had picked up some leaflets on trips in the Foye and after a brief read in the room, we returned to Reception and booked a couple of trips with the Concierge, before returning to our Executive Suite for coffee.
Refreshed we set off to explore. Sue had been talking to one of the many friendly staff and after a recommendation, she was determined to see the Opera House, which we found quite easily. Standing outside and taking photos, a very polite young lady asked if we wanted tickets. We inquired as to what was on and she showed us a video of the performance entitled ‘A Unique Way to Experience Vietnamese Culture’. It looked very good so we booked two tickets, amazingly on the front row, as she checked online for the availability of seats they magically appeared, having been returned. Can we do no wrong?
Feeling lucky we set off in search of the Night Market, but after discovering it, they appeared to be packing up for the night, so we planned to find a restaurant and then return to the hotel. However, early on in our wanderings, we had come across a statue of Ho Chi Minh, and we had been told that today was his birthday. People appeared to be preparing for something or other. Returning to the statue we found a place to eat that had aircon and replenished our rapidly diminishing strength with eastern grub. Whilst eating we noted a lot of activity going on outside.
The whole street and area had magically changed in around 45 minutes or so. Stages had been erected, sound systems put in place and hundreds of performers were going through their paces. The street was around a mile long, and it had been divided roughly into 5 sections, each with a stage and a theme. Military music was being played on the first, the second had rhythmic dancers, the third was folk music and dancing, the fourth was traditional music that turned into rock music, the fifth was pop music with I suppose well known Vietnamese artists performing. There was also plays going on, We dallied long at the last two and not very long at the others. The acts did between 3 to 4 numbers and then they would change. All were very good, but the interpretation was lost on ourselves. However, 5 players using traditional instruments and a singer began to play a pleasant catchy, obviously well-known folk ditty, as gauged by the crowd’s reaction. However, they transformed the piece into one of the most superb eerie rock songs you are ever likely to hear with the drummer (a lady who bashed a string of wooden rods hanging like a hammock) doing a solo that surpassed any that Ginger Baker has ever played. Marvellous, what a shame they played one more song before making way for Vietnam’s equivalence of The Spice Girls. The Vietnamese certainly know how to celebrate a dead leaders birthday, I look forward to David Cameron’s.