Saturday, March 31, 2018

March 27th & 28th – Birthday Treats in Saigon

If it’s your wife’s 40-something birthday and you want to give her a few treats, then where better to go than the vibrant city of Saigon? Health and Beauty treatments are incredibly good value, the shopping is legendary, while the food is delicious – we did a little of each on our first day.

Our day started with a two-hour massage where we were pummelled within an inch of our lives – highlights were the masseuse crawling up and down my spine with her knees, and then getting me to arch over her legs and balance precariously (face up) until the pain got too much. If you subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” theory of treatments, then I think it must have done us a world of good.

At the end of this pleasurable torture, we were left a little dazed and confused, which is not a good state to be in when launching into the crazy, traffic-filled streets of Saigon. It didn’t help that there were massive construction works going on for the city’s new subway, which is causing all kinds of traffic disruption in an attempt to improve this city’s perennial traffic problems. No pain, no gain clearly applies here too.

Actually, it doesn’t take long to see that this is a city on the march. Just sailing in and seeing the long lines of brand new apartment blocks and skyscrapers in the suburbs shows you the phenomenal speed at which Ho Chi Minh City is expanding and developing. At least 2 new bridges are being built over the river, while the new subway should hopefully make the city more efficient.

That evening, the birthday girl was treated to a fabulous meal at the Mandarine Restaurant – Vietnamese fine dining at its best.

After this day of relaxation and indulgence, our second morning was a bit of a shock to the system. A 5.15am start to join the World Cruise Event – “Tai Chi Minh City”. As the sun came up, we were bussed over to the Tao Dan Park, to join in with the locals as they did their morning exercises and Tai Chi routines. As one of the few open spaces in this congested city, the park was packed with people being active – if we were feeling tired when we got there, the sheer energy and non-stop activity of the place was an instant tonic.

Everywhere you looked there were groups of people doing all sorts of workouts – graceful Tai Chi, high energy aerobics, ballroom dancing, jogging, walking and doing push-ups. No wonder that the average Vietnamese person is so lean and fit looking. We were given a quick Tai Chi lesson, which was a little less graceful in its execution, but good fun. Next we went for coffee in the park, where all the old men brought their caged birds along to socialise. It was the first time that I’ve ever heard birdsong in this concrete jungle.

After this, we walked through the park to the gardens at the back of the Reunification Palace, where we were treated to a wonderful set of performances (lion dances and martial arts demonstrations) while we slurped on pho (Vietnamese soup) and ate spring rolls and all sorts of delicacies. It was all extremely well done, and amazing to think it was still only 9am. If we were feeling blessed at being able to experience all this, we then went to a temple to be literally blessed by the Buddhist monks in an interesting ceremony.

I’ve been coming to Saigon for 10 years now, and it’s wonderful to still be able to have new experiences in this fascinating city. A really wonderful couple of days