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Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh City

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Fiesta fiesta fiesta – I think we have landed in the party season. It is the fourth day of Tet, the New Year, and this year is the particularly special year of the Dragon. Everyone is out on the street and in top spirits.




on the ground it was a carnival atmosphere

First impressions of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) are extremely positive. The people may not be grinning quite as wide as the Thai’s but they are still exceptionally friendly. They are also exceptionally beautiful. We can also breath easy here – the air is so much cleaner than the ochre coloured smog of Bangkok, the streets are constantly being swept and there is virtually no litter.

On our first evening of exploration, we wandered past the re-unification building into the centre of town, enjoying all the New Year lights, with children posing for the camera’s whilst dodging the motorbikes to cross the road before taking in a cocktail on the roof of the Rex hotel. The Rex being  famous as the place where American Generals gave one side briefings on the progress of the Vietnam war. (or American War as it is known here). Walking around with all the families in the relaxed atmosphere made for a really pleasant evening before we had a dinner on a tabletop BBQ – a sort of BBQ  / fondue afffair – very tasty.

View from the roof of the REX

some of the colonial architecture and the green spaces gives a lovely feel to the centre of the city (outskirts are still horrid though!)

the millions of scooters all line up for the green light - crossing the road requires nerves of steel.

Our foray into the Market the next morning was a more typical Asian assault on the senses – a smorgasborg or writhing, wriggling fishyness, before the onslaught of full on Vietnamese sales technique in the watch/clothes hall. The technique here is very different to the laid back laissez faire attitude in Thailand. Here they shout and clap at you, chase you and keep going until they get your attention. Then they give a very inflated price and get all irritated when you give them a low price to start the haggling. In the event that you are not wanting to buy anything, they get all grumpy – I have to say it is a crap technique that needs to be refined to really make the most of the tourist dollar. Still, we ended up with an odd assortment of things we did not need (new watch and a hammock?!?), so their efforts were not without some reward. The one feeling we do get here and as opposed to Thailand, here you are seen as a bit of a walking bank – even though the prices are slightly higher than in Thailand – strange.

the market, the museum and the post office

We then explored the somewhat bizarre Ho Chi Minh Museum, providing the Vietnamese view on the war, and giving a relatively gentle introduction into the turbulent 20th century events in the region. The Huey helicopters and American tanks were painted up in Vietnam liberation colours in the garden, and there is no doubt about who won the war. (although the scars still remain and many people here my age hobble with terrible leg deformities – presumably the effects of Agent Orange and other nasties.) (Reading up in much more detail on the French occupation and then Vietnam/American War, it makes you realise what a dirty disgusting affair politics really is – and it still goes on today)

museum went down well!

On a more light-hearted note, we toured the post office designed by Gustaf Eifel, then Notre Dame Cathedral, before hunting around for dinner. We are finding food a bit more taxing here – not the tasty easy going Thai stuff:  Jo has just given up and resorted to a liquid diet – “the beer is made with hops – that’s a vegetable. I am not eating that– it smells like dog!”. Which to be fair, it often does. (Some of the beef dishes are even called “Fake Dog” as if dog was somehow better than beef?!?)  Saying that, Kai is being pretty brave and as long as it is not too spicy, he is trying everything that is in front of him. He is concentrating so hard on using chopsticks that he does not notice what is on the plate. The other two have decided to strictly limit their intake to sticky rice, fried egg and peanuts. I just hoover up the remains and hope that my risqué attitude does not lead to anymore Delhi Belly!

loving the new craze of "sticky rice diet"

We have also worked out why they are all so slim; firstly the portions are pretty small, secondly they have not discovered western food, and finally – there are no McDonalds here. Nor do there appear to be any supermarkets, nor do they have Facebook – it is censored! Many would say the lack of these three things alone makes Vietnam a pretty visionary place. So in little more than 36 hours we are starting to get a feel for the place and tomorrow we are heading out to Cu Chi tunnels – should be good.

Categories: Vietnam Tags: , , ,
  1. Joe & Verna
    January 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Wise choices being made at meal time gives more time to being tourists and not missing out on the wonderful sights……….

    • February 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      It is a balance between being brave and being on the toilet. I think we are getting the balance about right, just being careful with the water/salad end of things. Vietnamese cuisine is OK, but nothing on the Thai food. Maybe further north it will get a bit more interesting than the rice/steamed Veg/fish combo.

  2. fatclive
    January 31, 2012 at 8:50 am

    It’s still sounding like a proper adventure.
    Oh, shall i nip round to your house and plant a couple of shady trees for you about 8 feet apart? Front or back garden?

    • February 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Back garden, ideally coconut palms with adjacent bar and infinity pool. If possible a beach close by with clear water. If you can really push the boat out, then all day sunshine at around 29 deg C.

      If you can’t manage it, then don’t bother, I will just have to stay here.

      Say Hi to the fish and tell them Vietnam would not be good for their health! Love to all,


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