Apparently there is a concert every Saturday and Sunday morning, between eight and nine, in front of the Opera House. Today's concert was a selection of light popular songs played on traditional Vietnamese instruments. These included flutes, percussion instruments and the bamboo xylophone (or t'rung) of the E De people.
Turning my back on the Opera House and panning right, I looked down Dong Khoi Street. This is a great place to find the usual designers (Louis Vuitton, Hermes, etc.) high-end handicrafts, silk clothing and a better class of souvenir. And the little video below is an excellent example of pedestrian etiquette in Saigon. The city is stuffed with millions of motorbikes and they don't stop for anyone. There are few crosswalks and even fewer streetlights. your only hope is to start out across the street, walk slowly and steadily and keep going! The motorbikes will maneuver around you. Keep an eye on the person pushing the pram.
Saigon street food is legendary. Lots of ink has already been spilled on the subject so I'll just hit a few highlights.
Some of the most popular dishes are the famous Pho soup; the Vietnamese breakfast sandwich (a baguette split and stuffed with eggs, pork and condiments - all nice and tidy and keeps you going!) later in the day you can purchase the same baguette slathered with may and stuffed with pate, fresh greens and picked condiments; Cua Lot (soft shelled crabs - outstanding smothered in sweetly tart tamarind sauce); and Vietnamese egg rolls (there is a clear and present school of thought that anything deep fried is better!)
Unless you have a cast-iron stomach, it's best to stay with the cooked food and avoid ice cubes.
Below and to the right: street food three ways.
"Doesn't it look like the one in Paris?" our guide asked us hopefully when he took us around. My husband and I looked at each other and pressed our lips together noncommittally. It's a lovely building, but as far as I'm concerned (and, to be fair, I'm no architectural critic but I am opinionated) it looks pretty much like most decent nineteenth century cathedrals.
However, there was great excitement in 2005 when the granite statue of Our Lady of Peace was discovered to be shedding tears from her right eye. Traffic stopped for miles and, even after authorities declared that no tears were in fact flowing, it took ages to convince people to pack up and leave.
Videos: K. Marion
Photos: R. Marion and K. Marion
Coming up Next: It Happened in Bangkok
Saigon is full of wonderful parks (above)s, usually thronging with people. With the houses generally holding at least three generations, there is little privacy to have guests over. So much of the ordinary socializing, particularly among the young people, is done in the parks.
"Do you know why the houses are so tall and narrow," our guide queried. "It's because some bright spark in the seventeenth century decided to tax houses with a width greater than five meters at about three times the rate of those narrower than five meters."
Instant behaviour modification!
"And, they are so high because families all live together - my grandparents live on the lowest level, my parent next up, and my family and I live at the top." he concluded.