Sunday, April 22, 2007

Alternative activities in HCM City

When you stay long enough in HCMC and you have done all the shopping, visited all the sights listed in your guidebook and you start feeling sick of vendors trying to foist something that you had already bought and regretted about it so you wonder what else I can do instead of staying in the hotel room watching a repeated TV program? Well, HCMC does provide other activities for someone just like you.

Located on the top floor of the Parkson plaza, 35-45 Le Thanh Ton Street, powerbowl 388 (Tel: 8295388) is just one of entertainments you can find in this department store. The price for one game starts from 20,000 to 40,000 Vietnam Dong (10:00-14:00, 20,000/game; 14:00-18:00, 30,000/game; 18:00-close, 40,000/game; Sunday and Public holidays: 40,000/game), shoes and socks are also rentable at price 5,000 and 8,000 respectively. Toppers bar (open daily from 21:00; Tel: 8277632 or 8277634) has a big silver screen that broadcasts soccer games which provides another kind of excitement after a few rounds of bowling and video games.

Diamond Superbowl (Diamond Plaza, 34 DL Le Duan; Tel: 8257778; opening hours: 10:00-1:00) is very popular with locals and is notable for having fluorescent bowling balls and computerised scoring. Attached is a large amusement center with billiards, a video game arcade and shops

Rex Hotel provides not only accommodation but also a recreation center where you might win a jackpot. The Bingo Club is reserved for foreign patrons only, to get in you will have to show the security your passport. In the casino you can play various games such as the Pacific game, Universal card game, Alfastreet Roulette, Elaut Victory Dice and Williams Games. Or you can play touch screen video games, darts and billiards in the club.

The Victoria VIP club in Duxton Hotel is another casino in HCM City and is for foreign passport holders and Viet Kieu only. Games such as aristocrat cash express, weike caishen mystery, konami-sport of kings, aruze-bonus spin, wms-jackpot party, roulette, metg (baccarat), sic-bo dice and black jack are played here.

If you are lucky you might be able to get into the Opera for a performance during your stay. Performances usually start at 20:00 and finish at 22:00, 100,000 Dong/person, depends on the show. A variety of shows from concerts, orchestra to traditional music and dancing and as you would expect opera are staged here. The schedule of performances can be acquired at a tourist information center (open from 08:00 to 20:00 daily; 4G-4H Le Loi Street; Tel: (84.8)8226033; 8228949).

April 12, I went by the opera house trying to find out what the performance was for the day. I checked the poster (in Vietnamese), asked the ticket man (couldn't speak english) and even asked a scalper who was trying to sell me a ticket that I strongly suspected wouldn't be recognized by the opera but still I couldn't figure out what the show was about. So I went down Le Loi street and asked for help from the tourist information center. The staff not only provided the schedule of performances that will be held in April in the opera but also led me to the ticket window and confirmed the information for me. It was tranditional Vietnamese singing and dancing. Baignoire, loge and the closed curtain stage make the opera look much smaller yet more elegant from inside. Just when I was falling asleep the show started 25 min late behind schedule with passionate singing complimented with lively and rhythmic dancing. The show finished at 22:25, even though the show was in Vietnamese I enjoyed it very much.

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