31.03.2009 - 31.03.2009
I thought I might wake up late without the alarm, but woke up I did at 5 a.m. I have no idea why, I tried to force myself back to sleep but just couldn't. After tossing around for an hour or so, I decided I am now too awake to go back to sleep. So I got up, took a shower, got dressed and marched towards my new room tonight. Checked-in, left my luggage, and started the day's activities.
My first stop is the Reunification Palace, had pho for breakfast along the way. Tastes better than those in Hanoi, but still nothing incredible. It took me 30 minutes or so to reach the palace. Seems like I am the first visitor! Spent an hour walking around in there, and by the time I left, there was a considerable crowd already.
The Reunification Palace
Cabinet Meeting Room
Commanding Room during war time (basement level)
Spare Radio Station, in case the radio station is destroyed by enemies
President's bedroom during combat duty. So where will his wife be?
Next stop is the War Remnants' Museum. It's a museum more focused on pictorials rather than artifacts. Quite well done and pretty informative. Telling history by means of pictures is moving and overwhelming at the same time. Some of the pictures -- people crying beside their dead loved ones; brave photographers who died or went missing in the course of war; soldiers holding up heads of those beheaded; the tragic fate of Agent Orange victims… It just brings tears to the eyes. I spent a good two hours there, registering the power of photographs.
War Remnant's Museum
By now the weather has turned hot again, and I am feeling hungry. It's not even noon yet! I wanted some air-con, so went to a café for lunch. With meals being priced in the middle-range, I can't understand why the staff here don't know a word of English either? I have gotten quite used to this anyway, so I just pointed at something on the menu. Turns out to be pork-chop rice. Tastes ok.
Saigon traffic. Everyone is a masked crusader!
There is a famous coffee place nearby which serves weasel coffee. What is weasel coffee? Well, elsewhere it is usually referred to as civet coffee, but there is no Vietnamese word for civet, the closest being weasel, thus the name. Then, what is civet coffee? Well, civet coffee is coffee made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet and other related civets. The civets eat the berries, but the beans inside pass through their system undigested. So basically the coffee beans come from the civet's poo. However, there is so limited civet, and even more limited civet poo, so real civet coffee is extremely expensive. The company that owns this famous coffee place is Trung Nguyen, which developed an enzyme treatment process that mimics the changes produced in the coffee beans by the civet and produces a coffee every bit as distinctive and good as the genuine article but at a much cheaper price (and, fortunately, without any involvement from the weasels!).
Trung Nguyen Coffee
Ok, all the talk about weasel coffee. So how did it taste? Sorry, sold out. So I didn't have the chance to try it. Very disappointing!! I settled with something else, and I can't remember what it is. Anyway, that gives me something to do when I come to Vietnam again next time.
The coffee that did not leave a deep impression.