I was awake at 5:00am so it’s been a long, busy and really hot day in Ho Chi Minh!
This morning I finally found a coffee shop with soy milk and had the best drink ever…. it even seemed better than my usual at Starbucks! Then we headed to the Ben Thang Market where we met a local Vietnamese chef who showed us around and explained many of the local ingredients to us.
After the market, we went to the kitchen for our Vietnamese cooking class. They had all our ingredients chopped, measured and organized for us in little bowls. We worked in groups of 2 at our cooking stations.
We prepared a 4 course meal, with guidance from our chef and many assistants who kept clearing away our dishes and bringing us new ones. To start we made our own Vietnamese spring rolls (with pork and seafood stuffing) and fish sauce.
Next we made caramel pork in clay pots and ate it ontop of coconut rice (actually steamed in a coconut).
Our third course was the best soup ever – sour clam soup with dill. It was sweet and sour with a bit of spice to it! It was 40 degrees here today and I sat and ate soup – SO good!
Lastly, we had sautéed banana with fresh coconut milk tapioca pudding… a little anticlimactic (in my palate’s modest opinion) but still good.
It was a super fun day and by the end of our 3 hours, I had mastered the art of Vietnamese cooking enough to earn myself a certificate…. it’s getting framed with all my other hard earned University ones! The gave us a recipe book so we can make everything on our own at home… however, it will be a little less fun when I have to do all my own prep work and dishes afterwards though!
After our cooking class/lunch, we went to the former Presidential Palace and were given a guided tour. It’s a beautifully restored building.
We then went to a military museum detailing various aspects of the Vietnam war. It is currently one of the most popular museums in Vietnam, attracting approximately half a million visitors every year. We saw a collection of aircraft, artillery and amour vehicles, as well as photographs, maps and information during the course of the war, the aftermath of Agent Orange and the rebuilding process. Definitely an eye opening experience about a war I must admit I don’t know enough about. And much like the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum when I was in Japan, it was difficult to see an exhibit like this in person, surrounded by so many locals who have this as a part of their history.
It was a hot day walking around with many other tourists so we skipped out of the last part of the tour and came back for a quick shower and to change into some fresh, clean clothes. Then we headed out to do some bartering and shopping – finding a few things so far!
It’s funny that after all our walking around and being here for a few days, we’ve finally figured the quickest route around the area (instead of walking blocks and blocks out of the way). The streets here don’t follow a grid system and so many of the shops/stores look similar that it’s easy to get turned around. Tomorrow evening we fly to Hanoi, where the weather should be a normal and a little less tiring. After a 16 hour busy day in the sun, we are definitely tired and ready for a good sleep! =)