So, our enrichment trip this year is to Vietnam... Viva Vietnam! Why Vietnam? Because I have dreamt of visiting Da Lat for a while now, the Paris of the East; and I have dreamt of wearing an Ao Dai, from the time I saw the movie, Three Seasons. And bearing in mind the short time we have to spend for this travel, Vietnam is the best. Loads of history and culture, rich education for the kids; a thriving economy, maybe good business opportunities to explore; and a brewing coffee haven! No need to justify that one :)
Ho Chi Minh City ~ In 25/11/14, Out 27/11/14, 2 Days and 2 Nights
My youngest sister-in-law, Roha, drove us to KL Sentral, around 5am, where we took the KLIA Express to KLIA2. Our AirAsia Flight to Ho CHi Minh City was ETD at 8am. It seemed like a quick flight, we just snoozed, and we safely arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport Ho Chi Minh City at 8.55am local time. From the airport we took a Vinasun Taxi, one of the 2 recommended taxis, the other being Mai Linh Taxi, to take us to Au Lac Hotel 1, at 90 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. It was too early for check in, so we dropped our bags and went about exploring HCMC!
Our first stop was a quaint little coffee shop we spotted at one of the corners of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. It was Fly Cupcakes, and as soon as we stepped inside, I knew we were on the right track :) We enjoyed their wonderful coffee, our first classic Vietnam upon arriving, while the boys had cakes and tiramisu ice cream. We studied our Lonely Planet routes for a while, and then continued onward in search of the Notre Dame.
As we walked away from Fly Cupcakes, we could already see the Notre Dame up front. But shortly before that we spotted Diamond Plaza and with the overwhelming HCMC humidity, the kids insisted we stop by the department store first before continuing on. So we entered the Diamond and browsed and used the impressive facilities. While the kids were at the toy department, (yes, they found Lego!) I perused the city map again, coz I was sure I had seen Hard Rock Cafe HCMC somewhere nearby the Diamond Plaza. As it turned out, HRC HCMC was just around the corner, as the helpful staff at the customer information counter confirmed. So being typical Malaysians, we digressed a bit to the left, still keeping the Notre Dame in view, while we made it towards the Hard Rock Cafe HCMC :) We browsed and took photos and continued on towards the Notre Dame.
Yayyy! We found the Notre Dame!!! It was just splendid, like it had stood still in time or time had stood still around it. Right there, in the middle of the honks and the hustle bustle, was this splendid structure, so serene and calm amidst the chaos. I just had to stand and watch, taking it in...
Right in front of the Notre Dame, a little to the left, was the Central Post Office. A portion of it was under renovation, but the rest of the building was open to explore. It was like going back in time. In my mind I could hear music from the old gramaphone, old typewriters clacking away, and the sound of the stamps being franked. Surreal. I believe it is still operating as usual, though the middle and side parts of the building housed souvenir items for sale, postcards, stamps, mementos. And at the corner end outside the building we found a Dunkin' Donuts!
By the time we finished browsing around the Notre Dame and the Central Post Office, the boys were pooped! The heat and humidity were really overwhelming. So we made it back to Au Lac Hotel 1, through the lush green park around Pasteur and Alexander De Rhodes. It was a pleasant walk, although crossing the streets was a tricky task, motorcycles were the ones to really watch out for!
It was about 1pm and we finally checked in to the hotel, showered and rested, and by the time we were ready to go out again, it had started raining. I had a mission. I must go to Ben Thanh Market and find myself a One Day Tailor to make me some Ao Dai, with fabrics that I've had kept for several years now. The boys had a mission too, LUNCH! So, raining as it was, we got a taxi in front of the hotel and he drove us to Ben Thanh. We entered Ben Thanh and had a different kind of awakening. Never have we seen something so massive! Not the square footage of the place, but the density of the vendors inside! I had a vision that I would enter the market and I would see a nice row of shops and I would be able to calmly browse for a tailor of my choice. Instead, with the vendors grabbing our arms and tugging at us to buy their wares, I had not much choice but to go eenie-meenie-miney-moe, just pick a vendor...by the door? Well, the vendor I finally chose was literally near the south entrance door, so, yup, I guess, I chose it by the door, haha! But to my ease, she spoke fluent Malay, so I just went about my business quick and smooth. Serai Restaurant, Halal" and had made a dash towards it! So, we entered and ordered our food. It was well about 3pm, so the boys filled up with beef pho, fried rice, spring rolls and the works! We were too tired and hungry to bother taking any photos, we just ate! After that we dropped by The House Of Saigon, which was just 2 doors away from Serai, I had read about it online. They were having a fabulous sale, so we bought some nice handmade items as mementos. The House Of Saigon also carries the Dragon Shoes; I had a dream to buy me a pair of these at THOS coz I was hoping that they may price it lower than online. But the Dragon Shoes were at their normal price of 10million VND, about USD450, so I just touched and carressed them for a while and absorbing their beauty, before putting them back on their display. By 5.30pm it was already dark, and as we walked to catch a taxi, I found a shop selling some very nice leather shoes, for an irresistible price of 150,000 VND. I searched for my size but there were none, but finally the vendor found one pair that fit me. So I got a pair of flatties, just in time, as the soles of my sandals gave way from the rain.
We got back to the hotel. Got the boys showered and in bed. They konked out almost immediately. Since the hotel was overbooked, the boys had their room on the 6th floor while we were in the 2nd. It was okay we felt, as the hotel seemed pretty safe and secure. Since the boys were nicely tucked in bed, we went out for coffee at Gloria Jeans, just a few steps away from Au Lac. Mila said she would have the dresses delivered to the hotel that very same night. We returned from coffee around 10pm, the dresses had not arrived yet. I checked on the boys and they were good. Then I went to bed myself, it's just been a really long day. Fajr was around 4.50am, so right after that I called the reception to check if anyone had sent anything for me, and the guy said yes! So I quickly went down, got my package, came back up, a bit nervous, in case they were not good. But as I unwrapped and tried them on one by one, my heart still stuck there somewhere in my throat, the dresses were just brilliant! And I finally breathed! Weeeeeeeeee!!! I now have beautifully tailored Ao Dai! 4 Ao Dai and 1 maxi dress, from the green lace that had access. Even better Weeeeeeeeeeeee!!! What a great way to start our 2nd day in HCMC :)
My 4 darling Ao Dai... I asked the sleeves to be normal instead of raglan to minimise emphasis on the bustline, with the sleeves broader at the end, while the side slits fall a bit lower from the waist, loose fit, not like the bodice fitting ones the lovely Vietnamese women wear, and no pants as I can wear them with either skirt or pants... my favourite part of the Ao Dai is the collar...
This is my bonus dress, from the green lace...
I can't wait to wear them all!!! :)
More stories to be continued soon... xox