this should really be called 'what i did in ho chi minh city' because all i can comment on is what i saw and did in my short time in the city.
but here goes nothing.
i visited reunification palace, where i joined an hour long tour that provided little more information than you could read on the placards, but it did give some context to the giant building and why it is important. it used to be the presidential palace before the south lost the war and now it is a big, rather empty building showing the president's old stuff. i am not quite sure if the communist guidebook outlines how to make museums really empty and less interesting than they could be, but cuba and vietnam seem to have been forming the same interpretation.
more interesting, as museums go, but not any more coherent and a hell of a lot more biased, is the war remnants museum. where you can learn that all the atrocities committed during the vietnam war (or american war, as it called in these parts) were the americans' fault. you can also learn that much of the world supported the north's struggle against the americans and that the north was innocent of war crimes. i cannot imagine what it would be like to be an american in that museum. but bill clinton visited hanoi a few years back so all is well between the two former enemies, i guess.
i shopped at a few great little spots in the dong khoi area, stopped for a pedicure and a foot massage (that miraculously included a head, back, and shoulder massage) after a long day's walking around the streets, and i browsed the crammed rows of stalls at the ben thanh market, where there are knock-offs, t shirts, food stuffs, and knick knacks galore.
i popped into the notre dame cathedral during sunday morning mass and marvelled at the old post office next door and smiled at the hundreds of moto drivers hanging out outside of the church, waiting for their clients.
after hiring a cyclo driver, i risked my life on wild roundabouts with motorised vehicles to get to the jade emperor pagoda, where apparently it must be lucky to buy and then release baby turtles into the pond outside because there are thousands of turtles living in rather cramped conditions.
a few times a day, i enjoyed an iced coffee, sometimes black and sometimes with milk. these things are truly amazing.
most of my time was spent wandering the streets with my camera and trying not to stare at the women selling anything and everything on the streets, wearing pointy straw hats, and facemasks or the motorbikes driving by me with trees, huge televisions, or entire families on them.
although i am really enjoying moving at my own pace and making all the decisions on what to see, do, eat, and drink, there have been so many times where i have wanted to turn to someone beside and make a comment about something i had seen in the city. i suppose that is the trade off for travelling alone. or planning a trip in two weeks and not being able to coerce anyone into joining me!