We had our first bowl of beef soup called Pho Bo in a shop fronting a highway. We were busy eating, counting our millions, and taking photos of motorcycles rushing in the highway like swarm of black ants. The highway of HCMC is vibrant and dangerous. One can see women wearing the traditional dress and miniskirts driving the motorcycle while the bus is following. On the highway, there are a few bicycles competing with the motorcycles. On our first day, I was like on the brink of traffic accident for three times. First, we were afraid to cross the street because of the rushing motorcycles. Second thing, motorcycles pass through the sidewalk meant to be the footwalk so that pedestrians cannot just dilly dally in nooks and corners of the street. On our second day, we know what to do: run in crossing the highway and just walk straight with no hesitation as the motorcycle driver will just be the one to find his way. On the first day, I was forced by no choice to take a ride in the motorbike on our way to the cooking school and it was such a twister ride to pass through the traffic jam, being just a centimetre away from the bumbers and other vehicles, and hitting footwalks and road bumps and considering I am no fan of motorbikes, I’m dead or I think I was.
On our first day, we stopped at the opera house and walked through the impressively clean streets going to the Independence Palace which tired us and left us little energy to go to the helicopter after taking photos together with the armor tank. We then passed through a cozy park with many tourist police around and headed to the Post Office and the Cathedral. Entering the post office, I thought I was in a wrong place as all I can see were rows of money changers and souvenir shops inside. While surveying the souvenirs at the shop, I noticed that my two galpals are missing. I peeked outside and I saw someone gesturing that I should hurry towards the other end. And there was the photoshoot of some contestants for Miss Earth, an international beauty pageant founded by Filipinos. There we learned that the 2010 Miss Earth Pageant will be held in Vietnam and the other contestants including the Philippine contestant are shooting films in other locations.
The Cathedral is just across the post office. We were able to take a few minutes inside before it was closed by noon, and so we were able to see various cemented markers with “Thank You” in various languages written on them. The little park in front of the cathedral was entertaining with its small birds, jasmine blooms and that ornamental plant with deep purple leaves and red tinge on its top leaves. On our way from the cathedral going to the small library where we bought some watercolour painting, we saw two wedding photoshoots, one bride was in white while the other was in the traditional Vietnamese dress.
And since it was noontime, our friend brought us to the famous noodle soup house where then US President Bill Clinton ate when he first visited HCMC. Pho 2000 is located at Ben Thanh Market. I ordered the large bowl of chicken noodle soup, Pho Ga, and yes, it was quite larger than what I had imagined and I can’t wipe the bowl clean.
We surveyed the Ben Thanh market and my galpals were to go shopping while I and my friend would go and learn some viet cooking the whole afternoon. Most shops in the Ben Thanh market closed at the early time of 7pm but there were some night shops that mushroomed right on the streets while some shops along the road are open. We bought bags and lots of tshirts, ate on the make-shift restaurant pitched on the road among the night shops. From there, we entered the Saigon Tax Mall where we bought many goodies from Vietnamese lacquerware to Vietnamese rice papers. And from there, we realized how we splurged at least a million just in one day!