Today has been a good day, so far. I woke up a wee bit early, but it’s hard to sleep in here anyway – no one in this hotel grasps the concept that someone might want to sleep past 7:30am.
I took a taxi downtown and had the first female driver that I’ve seen since I got here. I met up with Mrs. Bich (see this entry) and she took me to a tailor where I was measured and prodded. Sometimes I don’t even bother attempting to understand what is being said, but in this case I really wish I could speak Vietnamese fluently. My clothes (one pair of pants, one dress, one top) will be ready next week.
Afterwards I went home with her and she made a lunch of bun cha with some mango for dessert.
Leaving, I meandered towards the Chợ Bình Tây and on my way I passed the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum. There was some good photography on the first floor, including a famous one some of you might recognize. For the most part, though, the best thing about this museum is the building itself. Ignoring the potential damage that might be happening to the art work because the building is not climate controlled, this building is one of the most beautiful and interesting ones that I have seen in this city. You are not supposed to bring your camera in, but this building is just begging to be photographed. The faded bright colors, the angles, the texture, the character of this building was enough that I spent most of my time composing my own compositions rather than looking at the work of others.
Part of me is considering bringing a Vietnamese friend a long next time, to ask them if I could take fine art photos not of the art and I promise not to use the flash?
It used to be owned by a Chinese business man and, according to the pamphlet “…was built in the Asian European style by French architecs in the early… 20th century.” (direct quote, all typos are theirs). There is even a little (blocked off) early 20th century lift to go up and down the four floors. There’s something to be said about the Asian-French architectural influence in this city. I find it more interesting than the straight up Chinese architecture and more interesting than just straight up French architecture. I am not an art history/architectural student, though.
Walking away, I nearly melted in the midday (1:30pm) heat and scurried into a Highlands Coffee, which is like an upscale Starbucks only I always forget to pay because they have you pay afterwards restraunt style. I tend to walk halfway out and then rush back in apologizing. Mostly, I just wanted the air conditioning. But a fancy dish of rum raisin ice cream was also a plus.
I’m not a huge fan of Highlands, too many tourists, particularly the tour groups with their little numbered stickers. Like cattle. Another thing regarding tourists: Man, did you fly in straight from the midwest? If I could easily lift your camera/bag/etc. the local who could eat for a year on the sale of your overpriced video camera most definitely can.
I found the best shop ever yesterday. It’s a little art gallery with some amazing works transformed onto quality t-shirts, stationary (!), prints, originals, etc. One of the few places I actually don’t mind paying USD.