My internal clock is still firmly on SA time. As a result, I fall asleep at around 2am so when the alarm goes off at 6am, it’s a real struggle to get up and going.
The light is really harsh at midday, so the best time to take any decent photos is early morning and late afternoon. I am keen to visit Tao Dan Park which is a short walking distance from the hotel. My sense is that the park will be filled with people of all ages doing some form of exercise. I am not wrong. On arrival at around 7, the park is teeming with people of all ages playing badminton, tai chi, Kung fu, gentle stretching and aerobic classes, walking and jogging. Some just sit and meditate, others read newspapers or books. I am immediately enveloped in the most wonderful sense of calm and fascination.
Two hours pass by quickly as I walk around totally immersed in the serenity and flowing energy of this early morning ritual of others.
Following breakfast at our hotel, it’s time to put on the walking boots and hit the pavements. Our plan is no plan. Just to walk and see what we encounter. We have some idea of certain places we would like to see, but we get there by accident rather than design.
We stumble across the Notre Dame cathedral, the neo-Romanesque cathedral built between 1877 and 1883 using bricks from Marseilles. It’s impressive from the outside but fairly plain inside.
Across the road, we visit the Post Office building. The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century. It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area.
Our meanderings eventually get us to the canals. It’s now the middle of the day with temperatures and humidity soaring, so we catch a cab and beat a hasty retreat to the coolness of our hotel room. We don’t venture out again until 4.30 when the heat has subsided and the city settles into night mode.
We take a quick walk through the Ben Thanh Market to the edge of the river, where we settle on a pedestrian bridge to wait for the sun to set and the city lights to cast reflections on the water. One is never alone in Vietnam, yet I don’t ever feel crowded. People respect your personal space and everyone goes about doing their own thing. I watch in fascination as a young lady sets up her pots, food and paraphernalia to sell her cooked food merchandise to passers-by. An older man stretches gently then sits and removes his shoes and socks to free his feet from the constraints of his closed shoes.. A number of teenagers, still in school uniform, mess around listening to music, flirting and teasing each other. Some people just come to look at the scenery and enjoy the gentle evening breeze.
The city has a different energy in the evening. It seems to come to life in the coolness of night. The Christmas lights are still up and the financial district streets are glowing and seething with hundreds of motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and cars. It’s energizing and exhausting weaving through traffic and I am thankful when we eventually arrive in our “hood” and settle to a well deserved cappuccino at our new favorite coffee shop next to our hotel.
Tomorrow we make our way to Can Tho and the Mekong Delta. I hope the excitement does not keep me awake all night!