Thursday, March 31, 2011

City Snapshot: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Ho Chi Minh City was our final stop in Vietnam. We were told in advance it would be the most Western, and I can definitely see where it gets that reputation. The French style of architecture is more prevalent here, a lot of the streets seem very modern. You can sort of see that in the photo, which was from the roof of the Rex Hotel. War buffs will recall that the hotel was the host of many a press conference during the American-Vietnam war.

By the time we reached this city we had been traveling incessantly, I was still dehydrated from a brief illness, and we were confronted with the hot and humid weather that we had expected but somehow had avoided in the northern and central regions. For these reasons, I wasn't as on top of pictures here as I was during the early part of our trip, which is a shame because this city is a fabulous place to observe the contrast of capitalism and communism. Walking down the street, we passed department stores and plenty of Western name-brand places (the kind I can't afford). We also continued to see the colorful, blocky propaganda posters that undoubtedly address about each person's important place as part of the whole, and also undoubtedly reference good ol' Uncle Ho.

We went into a department store that had its own food court and bowling alley. We went to a restaurant so trendy that we had to dine in the lounge area because we didn't have reservations. Matt and I had drinks on the roof of the Rex Hotel and my mojito cost seven dollars. Sitting on the roof, surrounded by old white people and looking out at the view in the photo above, I almost forgot I was in Vietnam.

However, the city streets still share much with the country's northern capital. We found street food (we ate banh mi here) and a crowded, bustling market indistinguishable from those we saw earlier on our trip. Ribbons of incense smoke twisted out of temples and assaulted our noses. We saw a barbershop set up on a street, the entirety of the shop being a mirror hanging on a fence, a chair in front of it, and the barber with a bag of supplies.

If I ever have an opportunity to return to Vietnam, I hope to make Ho Chi Minh City the primary destination.

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