Take a walk

Take a walk
Quận 10, Vietnam

Quận 10, Vietnam

A pool with puppets at the far side
Water puppets.

“What is your transportation?” asked the Vietnamese-American sat nearby in Pho Hoa (‘a contender for the title of Saigon’s best pho restaurant’ says Lonely Planet). I’m walking. “Walking? Huh. Just …take a walk!”

And I had. After I’d got up at 5 to go for a run-my conclusion from Internet wisdom was that you either don’t bother, run laps of a park or get up early and do the latter. 5 was about right, roads quiet enough that I could cross them, so I wasn’t limited to sections of the canal but could cross each bridge as I came to it (yes) and get a decent distance in. The first person I’d seen on leaving the hotel was a local runner, and there were more, plus plenty of walkers, when I got to the canal. Perfect. Ricked my ankle once, on a manhole handle (!) but otherwise, a total success. Done by 6.15, the sun was up and I went to bed for a couple of hours. Running at that time was manageable-very warm, but like a blanket, rather than the furnace of midday – 37C, said one daytime sign.

Found some greenery - near the palace
Found some greenery – near the palace.

Up later, I took a walk (Boston accent). The reunification palace is reachable from here, but the walk is a bore-every road crossing (not at 5am) is an effort, even if a predictable pace does mostly see you safe. I made it, but living here would necessitate a bike-or, more realistically, for me, getting the hell out as soon as possible. That said, it doesn’t seem quite as horrendous as Hanoi, though there my hostel was better placed, on a road that was walk and cross-able, and which even closed to traffic (which always has to be enforced with barriers-if you can get a bike down a path, a bike will go down that path) sometimes, with a patch of restaurants and bars round the corner and the lake nearby. Here, no oases, though there is a plethora of coffee shops. Funny road, though, as left out of the hotel leads, realistically, only West. I think it’s a military base that blocks the way South and SW. So everything has to go North then W or E, which makes it feel a little cut off.

Church, right on a busy roundabout

The palace is surrounded by gardens, for a it of relative peace and quiet. Near(ish) by are the botanical gardens and History museum, and the War Remnants museum. Mindful that the museums close for lunch, I hit the latter for the morning. It is propagandised but still mostly effective in showing the horrors of war-particularly the victims of agent orange. Some hardware outside sets a tone, but any gung ho reactions will soon be tempered by the peaceful exhortations inside.

Motobikes on the pavement, to cut round a full street

For lunch I ignored and fended off the moto riders who wanted to take me to a local restaurant and walked to a local one-more expensive than theirs, I’m sure, given that this was my most expensive meal yet, but left me near where I wanted to be. I explored the Adidas outlet store on Pasteur, which was underwhelming and suffered from the Asian posh store curse, whereby an assistant detaches like a tie fighter from the mothership and secures themselves to you by a tractor beam. Which means my browsing ends and I play ‘move as mysteriously as possible’ to see if that beam can be broken.

A queue of motor bikes makes for a busy street

After lunch, the history museum, which is a little run down, but covers a broader history than many other places, starting from the Stone Age. There are plenty of proud dioramas showing successful revolts against the Chinese as Mongol invaders – the latter beaten three times – but without a colour code nor clear winner shown, each was a case (ha!) showing a red v blue battle, with some vivid plasticine deaths.

The history museum also has a water puppet show, and at 20 minutes it’s the shorter, more accessible way to enjoy the historic Vietnamese art form. Kind of cool, kind of somnambulant.

Buddha statues of varying sizes in a large display case
Phat Buddha.

On the walk back I enjoyed my last road crossings a little. I enjoyed two small Vietnamese children waving “hello!” a lot more, especially the tiny one who kept it up all the way down the road.

I walked back, via Pho Hoa and Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) because I’d spotted I was near this one last entry in the guide book, and got back to the hotel without dramas, through heavy heavy traffic. Unlike yesterday, where I’d returned from a walk and nearly been squished by a bike. I guess it was inevitable, some time.

Read: Beryl Bainbridge, Every Man for Himself.

Reading: Mary Kowal, Word Puppets.

History museum
History museum.

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