Monday, April 7, 2008

Day 8 - The shopping spree and night river cruise

Oh the painnnnnnnnnnn! I wake up and find bruises on my arms and thighs from that damn massage last night. UGH. We open our safe and take all our money out. Today its all about retail therapy, I'm sure I'll feel better soon. We walk outside the hotel and found a shop close by for breakfast:

Steamed prawn rice paper

Steamed pork rice paper (My all time favourite!)

Mass amounts of herbs and veggies to go with the rice paper

My mud river crab noodle soup (I think its soft shell crab?)

Asking a local tour company where the lacquer factories were, they told us to go to the war remnants museum, and its just down the road from there. We cab it to the museum where we duck in for a quick tour.

To be honest, 5mins into there, it was just too shocking and depressing for us.


Hand grenades

We left in search for the lacquer factory, where we were hoping to pick up a bargain or two. We ask for directions and end up going in circles for 20mins when we spot a tourist information centre. We go in to ask for directions, and they basically told us the closest lacquer factory was in Hanoi?? Excuse me??? They managed to find 3 lacquer shops and gave us the address, so we thought we'd hunt them down incase its a language barrier thing.

We get into a cab and find ourselves about 5mins walk from our hotel. And the address she gave us was to a major shopping centre, almost like Myers. My sister was about to hit someone. I thought the best thing to do in this situation is to drag her to Ben Thanh Markets for some retail therapy.

Along the way, we pick up a huge range of tshirts for the kids. I also stopped my sister paying 4 times the amount for a hammock. Why did she need a hammock.....thats another story. We get to Ben Thanh Market, and 5secs into the markets, I'm bargaining again. I taught my sister the code I use with Moishii. "I think BLAH would like that", which is my sign to start bargaining.

I picked up a really nice embroidered bag for 100,000 dong, which is around $6.50AUD. I spotted a similar bag at a different store, with a much more detailed and elaborate embroidery. I offered them 10,000 dong and was dead set on the price. 5 mins of bargaining and I walk away from the shop, only to have the woman come chasing me down. And still, I would only offer 100,000 dong. That is until she said "Miss, please, could you give me just another 10,000 dong so I can make a profit?". That's when it occurred to me, that she was asking me to give her another 65c. Of course I gave it to her, but when you're dealing in hundreds of thousands, you forget how much it actually costs you when you convert it.

We continue through the market, going nuts buying triples if not quadruples of everything. After awhile, we had to run across the street to an air conditioned cafe to have a break before we could continue:

Iced ginger tea

After we had a few drinks, it was back into the market for the rest of our shopping. We ended up buying about 4kgs of Vietnamese coffee between the 3 of us. We started going a bit nuts and just bought random crap. Chopsticks, coasters, paintings, magnets and anything else we could bargain down, we bought. I even got the Thai fisherman's pants??? Why?????

We're eventually so loaded up with goods, we could not physically walk through the narrow walkways of the market. It was a sign to go grab lunch.

My workmate highly highly HIGHLY recommended Pho 2000 to me. And that she had 3 meals a day there one day because she loved the food that much. We walk into Pho 2000, and its just as she described, Bill Clinton's photos all over the wall. And the pho? It was REALLY REALLY good:

We're exhausted by this stage, so we hop into a cab back to the hotel where we collapse into a heap. I quickly grab a shower and get ready for tonight. We had booked a night river cruise tour which takes you to a cultural centre with a traditional Vietnamese wedding demo.

Only me and my sister would be going on the tour, and they pick us up and take us to the local pier. We get out and next thing you know, my sister is shoving me infront of the boat taking photos:

Looks good aye?

Then the tour guide pointed out to us that we're at the wrong boat..... THIS was our boat:

It was a 1.5hr boat ride to the cultural centre, and along the way, all you can see are the various shacks that people live in. Its quite shocking for me, to see the most developed city in Vietnam to look like this.

We get to the cultural centre, and not without drama. My sister has a phobia of water at night, particularly dark water (Long story). So as it got later, she starts freaking out and I end up sitting on the floor of the boat with her.

We pull up the pier, and she practically shoves me off the boat. Meanwhile, she's got her eyes closed and both her hands on my shoulder so I could guide her. Except she kept stepping on me, and we're walking on this rickety pier that is about 1m wide. I almost fell in and took her with me!

We walk into the cultural centre and we see a massive outdoor grilling area. There was also many wok tossing stations etc. We thought we were in for a treat with all you can eat:

Unfortunately, we get ushered passed the stalls and into a hut where we sit for 30mins drinking tea. Only then did we get to go into the theatre to watch a reenactment of a Vietnamese wedding.

Opening dance

Picking up the bride

"Consummating" the marriage

After the show, we get shown our table where we get a "traditional" Vietnamese meal...we'll see about that.

Green salad?

Mushroom and white fungus seafood soup

Crumbed fried tofu

Fresh and fried spring rolls

Fish.....and chips....

Fried cheese stuff beef and glutinous rice balls

Steamed lotus leaf fried rice

It was fried rice, wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed. Errrrr....yeah....

Cauliflower and prawn stir fry

Fresh fruit

Luckily, it was only a 20min bus ride back to the hotel, rather than the 1.5hr boat ride. I'm sure my sister would've laid face down and petrified on the floor. We get back to the hotel around 10pm, and we went to Caravelle hotel where we had cocktails and enjoy the night view.

We finished the night up around 1am since we were leaving tomorrow.

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