There are virtually no traffic rules and motorbikes on the sidewalks are part of the norm in Saigon. We still wander, just with our wits about us. We headed to the Ngoc Hoang or Jade Emperor Pagoda, a beautiful Chinese Taoist temple. The bright pink walls made it easy to locate on an otherwise typical commercial block. This temple was built in 1909 to honor the Taoist god of the heavens, the Jade Emperor. The courtyard is filled with statues of genies, many of which are made of paper mache. Above there are figures playing instruments. There are also beautiful orchids and a pond filled with catfish. Inside there are many statues; two fierce wooden figures flank the Jade Emperor. There is a lot of incense burning and plenty of worshipers.
Weaving through the less-trafficked streets we came upon a fairly large school. We peeked inside the courtyard where students were performing. The principal invited us to watch the dress rehearsal for the 100th year celebration. It was adorable. Some of the children’s shirts had bubble tea drinking astronauts on them.
Keeping the student theme going…we stopped for an afternoon iced coffee and we were swarmed by a class trip. They all asked questions about our favorite books, our favorite subjects and of course how we liked our visit so far.
The Fine Art Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is in three buildings. Only one of the buildings was open when we arrived. The gallery rooms are dingy and dated and art work we saw was primarily local with English translations. We left and wandered through antique filled streets. As we headed back to our hotel a second round of questions by older students curious about the education system in the US and wanted to know if religion was mandatory. As a thank you for our time we received a small banner which says Happy New Year in Vietnamese!
On our way to dinner, we passed the Pink Church, Tan Dinh (in a taxi). It was sparkling and very pink inside and out. This is the second largest Catholic Church in Saigon.
Our dinner was at a small and lovely restaurant in District 1, Cuc Gach, which with the correct diacritical marks translates to ‘brick’. We were informed that the owner of the restaurant is an architect and he built this restaurant brick by brick. The restaurant is on both sides of the street and serves delicious small plates which makes it simple to order a lot and share!
Another delicious day left us sated in Saigon.