An Old Hand in Vietnam

Bigger-than-life puppets

Virg and I stroll around the city before we drop by Saigon Square to look for specific objects. We go from one stall to the next but do not buy any because the feminine clothes with intricate design are more expensive than the ones in Manila.

The streets of Vietnam teem with motorbikes and bikers of all types. A lot of them are women in heels and form-fitting skirt, and I salute them for looking very beautiful while astride the bike.

On our way to Saigon Square

Lunch

We walk for a couple of blocks and decide to eat at the nearest place available. We choose one that has overflowing local patrons, a modest place along Huynh Street. We just point at the food that looked appealing to us. After choosing the food, I leave the restaurant and go to the next stall that sells custard for VND 7,000 each. On my way back to the restaurant, I come across this woman who sells sugarcane juice. It is very aromatic so I decide to buy two for VND 7,000. 

Sugarcane juice perfect for the sweltering heat

Lunch for two composed of Vietnamese complete meal, custards and sugarcane juice costs VND 43,000!!!  The meal is decent and the serving of ground meat with quail egg and sauce tastes good. The custard is a bit bland, but I like extremely sweet food so maybe I am bias. The sugarcane juice is something I can drink thrice a day.

Go, grow and glow in one plate

Fine Arts Museum

After lunch, with renewed energy, we proceed to Pho DucChinh where the Fine Arts Museum is located. We pay the admission fee of VND 10,000 and in exchange for this minimal amount, we are able to explore two buildings filled with lacquerware paintings, sculptures, chinaware and propaganda materials, among other things.

   

HCMC  Fine Arts Museum building

Aside from (what I think are) art students, the museum has a handful of visitors who are free to roam around the rooms in the three floors of the first building. There is a wing designated for lacquerware paintings, several rooms for contemporary art, and one room for busts and paintings of artists made by their colleagues. This is one of my favorite rooms because the artworks show humor without sacrificing beauty.

View of the courtyard from the third floor

One of the lacquer painting in the first building

Beautiful painting of a beautiful woman

One of the works in the contemporary art room shows the twins Thang Long and Hano

Some of the pieces found in HCMC Fine Arts Museum

After almost two hours of going up and down the stairs of the first building, we transfer to the next building. Only the ground floor is open to the public, and we are fortunate enough to look at the art exhibit of Oba Shuji. The lacquer paintings are famous sceneries in Japan and in Vietnam.

Light fixture in the second building
Lacquer painting of the Ha Long Bay by Oba Shuji
Lacquer painting of Mount Fuji by Oba Shuji

With our artistic curiosity satisfied, we go back to the hotel to rest for an hour.

Water Puppet Show

At 430pm, we leave the room, walk a block of Huyen Tran Cong Chua and arrive at Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street. That block of Huyen Tran Cong Chua has one of the gates of Independence Palace on one side while the other side has several stalls that sell football and basketball jerseys. As tempted as I am to buy a jersey of Manchester United or Spain, I successfully stop myself from doing it.

When we arrive at the theater, we are not seated immediately because ticketholders from group tours are given priority. The tickets cost $8.00 each, and they sell like hotcakes so one has to buy them at least a day before if one wants to sit in front. We buy ours through the hotel receptionist (it was a last minute decision), and we are lucky to get seats F8 and F9.

The King Puppet and I

The program includes a music prelude and the water puppet show itself. The main part is divided into 17 segments that are continuous. Some of the segment titles are Dragon Dance, Catching Frogs and Dance of Four Holy Animals. The fifty-minute show is enjoyable. Although I do not understand what the voice-over talent is saying, I laugh. Based on the reaction of the people around me, we have the same sentiments. Throughout the time I am watching it, I marvel at the ingenuity of water puppet show. I can barely see the sticks that hold the puppets above water, even though the puppets keep on doing backflips and complicated dance routines.

View of the stage from F9

At the end of the show, the puppeteers emerge from the back and wave at the crowd. The crowd shows its appreciation by clapping enthusiastically.

Golden Dragon Water Puppet –  Video Clip-1
Golden Dragon Water Puppet –  Video Clip-2

 

Dinner

Virg and I opt to eat at a small eatery in the corner of Nguyen Du and Thu Khoa. The owner’s version of Vietnamese complete meal and a serving of fish cost VND 23,000! I like the fried spring rolls because they are fried and her fish is tasty.

Green on green. The plate complements its contents.

After dinner, we buy more pasalubong. On our way back to the hotel, we stop to buy food from a vendor. In the middle of cooking the quail egg, she hears the sound of a police car and wants to up and leave. It is a good thing that the police car drives away without stopping. She calms down and continues to cook this tasty treat.

It does not look good on this photo, but it tastes good. ^__^

We want to spend our last night in Ho Chi Minh City eating chocolates and chocolate-filled wafers that we bought after dinner, but it is just unfortunate that we have to pack our things for tomorrow’s trip to Siem Reap.

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