Saigon! Or, as it’s now known, Ho Chi Minh City! I don’t know what i expected but it’s blown me away with its size and modernity. Giant sky scrapers, glossy billboards for Samsung and Tiger Beer… as larry would say, “you wouldnt know they’re communist with all the free enterprise!” True, although the two are not mutually exclusive, especially since the doi moi (economic reforms) in the year of my birth, 1987. This city is go, go, go, with 9 million people and 6 million motorcycles. I read that half of all the motorcycles in the whole country are here in this one city. It doesn’t surprise me! Crossing the street takes some getting used to. You have to just go for it and walk at a normal pace; they’ll go around you. Even riding in a taxi you’re constantly aware of all the bikes and afraid of hitting one.
Larry and I are staying in the thick of things; our hotel is right next to the Ben Thanh marketplace, which you really have to see to believe. A million stalls selling everything from fruits, meats, live fish, places to order lunch, jewelry, knockoff handbags and watches, and all manner of souvenirs and knicknacks. The haggling is relentless, they almost always start at about double what you can end up paying if you aren’t afraid to negotiate. In other words, Larry is in heaven. We did so much shopping we had to buy an extra suitcase to take everything home (a purple Samsonite, for only $45!) And I doubt we’ll fit it all in that. But that’s a good problem to have, right? Right.
Today we went to the War Remnants Museum, which is all about what is known here as “the American War” (why WOULD they call it “the vietnam war”? It’s not like it’s the only war they’ve fought in). People say the museum was “one sided”, but maybe because I was educated at a fairly liberal school, it fit the narrative I had always been taught of the war being especially brutal, and ultimately pointless. It didn’t totally demonize Americans, either. I was quite surprised to see a whole room dedicated to glorifying all the American opposition to the war back home (the hippie movement), including photos of American boys burning their draft cards, and stories of American soldiers who defied orders to save innocent vietnamese people. This wasn’t an “all Americans are evil” propoganda machine; in fact, I haven’t met a single local here with any animosity toward my homeland (even though I wouldn’t completely blame them if they did).
There was a whole room devoted to the effects of agent orange (dioxide gas) with pictures of people born with severe deformities that were pretty hard to look at (and uplifting as well, some of these children still had laughter on their faces, wow).
Tomorrow we’re going in a cruise of the Mekong delta. Larry is excited to get away from the pollution in Saigon, and I’m excited for him to quit complaining about the pollution in Saigon, hahaha). We’ll more than likely be off the grid during the next three days. After that we have a few more days in saigon until we both head back on the same flight to Houston. Duchess, mommy is coming home!