We had a full day to play today. Minh and Jade were worn out, so they decided to skip all the sightseeing. Thuy couldn't go with us, but she had a driver take us wherever we wanted to go. First, we went to the Museum of Vietnamese History. It was very interesting and had loads of beautiful artwork. We took probably 100 photos and then got close to the end when we ran into a sign that said, "no photos" and a guard who asked us to put our camera away. Oops! After that we went to the Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens. It was SO hot! It was a very old zoo. The most interesting parts were the topiary and the elephants. They were so close, they could reach out and take bits of sugar cane directly from our hands. One goat was completely fascinated with Ephraim. He totally ignored all the other visitors and did everything possible to be allowed to lick Ephraim's hand! The funniest thing though has been the Vietnamese' reaction to me. They don't pay any attention to Ben, but I think I've had my picture taken more than I've taken of Vietnam! Ben thinks it's my red hair, freckles and light green eyes. We are the only non-Asians wherever we go. There have been groups of school children at all the sights, and they all yell, giggle and wave to me saying, "hello, madam" and "thank you very much", sounding like a group of tiny Elvis impersonators. The teachers just smile. At the zoo, an older gentleman came up to me and stuck a video camera within inches of my face. After about five minutes, he simply walked away. The younger folks sneak a picture of me with their camera phones, and when I notice and smile, they look a little embarrassed and say, "thank you very much". After lunch we went to Ben Thanh Market. Wow! It was so overwhelming! The walk areas were very tight, there were vendors, vendors and more vendors, and they were all calling out to us to buy their goods. At one point I had vendors on each side of the aisle grabbing my sleeves so that I couldn't keep walking! If you stop to look at their goods, they give you the HARD sell and you feel really awful saying no after they dump out all their boxes of little trinkets. We didn't take any pictures because we were told the pickpockets were so bad it wasn't worth risking it. Later that night we went back to the Tax Market to buy some gifts. The air conditioning and lower-key atmosphere was worth paying a few extra pennies. Tonight we picked up food at Pho 24. It was really good!
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6 days ago