Wednesday 10th December, 2014
And finally we reach Day 12, the last day of the Vietnam Culinary Discovery tour. The day’s itinerary reads:
Today you will be transferred to the airport for your ongoing flight.
I have extended my stay in Ho Chi Minh City while Kylie has an airport transfer booked in the late afternoon, so at last we have a whole day to shop and explore HCMC on our own and at our leisure.
Our first destination is to head back towards the enormous Ben Thanh Market to shop for souvenirs and Christmas gifts. All throughout our trip, in addition to the culinary lessons, market tours and street food experiences, we have also eaten at a variety of restaurants. Often during our dining adventures, Kylie and I have admired the unique crockery or table accessories and wondered where we could purchase something similar as a memento of our time in Vietnam. As much as I love cooking, I also enjoy entertaining and creating wonderful food for my family and friends, so in addition for my hunt for kitchen equipment, I’ve been looking for something from Vietnam to showcase at my next dinner party.
Fortune appeared to be on our side and on the way to market, we just happened upon a store selling uniquely crafted homewares, exquisite crockery and cooking accessories. I had a lot of fun shopping for beautiful things, with the added bonus that everything was very reasonably priced and also individually wrapped to ensure that my purchases got home safely. Definitely worth a visit if you are on the lookout for something special to remember your visit.
Funnily enough, after our wonderful shopping experience at Authentique, the visit to the market was rather short-lived which now left us wondering, “Where to next?”. Not far from the market is the Fine Arts Museum, housed in two majestic colonial-style buildings with original 1920s architecture, parquetry floors and decorative stained glass. The museum is extensive with an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art in many different forms. The outdoor café in the courtyard was an ideal location to take a break mid-way during our wanderings and enjoy an iced coffee break.
We still have an entire afternoon to amuse ourselves, so Kylie and I walk across the city in search of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, taking a few wrong turns here and there, but it’s all part of the experience. The zoo is quite expansive and is actually one of the oldest zoo’s in the world. It was literally feeding time at the zoo when we walked into the reptile enclosure and watched two very, very large snakes were making short work of a couple of rabbits for lunch. All the enclosures looked a little tired and dated, but they were also relatively clean and accessible. While the animals inside the cages may be dangerous, be on the lookout for people approaching you for money behind the barriers.
It’s time to head back towards our hotel to ensure we arrive in time for Kylie’s departure. All the walking has made us a little more agile than usual so we still have another hour up our sleeve, which prompted the idea to explore the famous Caravelle Hotel and enjoy one last tipple before going our separate ways.
The Caravelle Hotel which was beacon of design when it opened in 1959, also served as headquarters to journalists and diplomats during the Vietnam War. According to my guidebook, “Reporters would joke that they could cover the entire war without leaving their seats at the rooftop bar”, which is a site of historical importance that Kylie and I are intent on locating.
We arrive well before the 4pm Happy Hour kick-off, however the bar staff were extremely obliging and content to make us cocktails at discounted prices which is very generous. Queue the exotic drinks and stunning scenery, the sun was about to set on our amazing holiday.
At the beginning of the trip, I was expecting a small group tour and was a little apprehensive to find out that there were only two participants and that we would be room-sharing together for the duration of the trip. I’m extremely blessed to have met and made a new friend who enjoyed food, fun and travel as much as I do and who made my trip memorable for all the right reasons. Thanks Kylie!
And lastly a big thank-you to Insider Journeys for creating a tour that truly showcases the best of Vietnam and allows visitors to discover the heart and soul of a country through its cuisine. Now for the diet …
Disclaimer: All entries regarding the Vietnam Culinary Discovery tour within this blog reflect my own personal insights and experiences throughout my holiday and I was solely responsible for meeting all travel expenses incurred.