Location: Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 23 – 26th
Disclaimer: This posting is occurring in the jungle of Borneo, where I barely have internet. Pictures just won't load. So, this is without the usual imagery. I tired of watching the load bar not move. Check back at a later date :)
To Saigon I went! I arrived and to spend a few hours getting myself oriented while waiting for Cabe to touch down, I went on a bit of a twirl about town and quickly realized that it was Saturday and just like any city on the weekend, Saigon likes to brunch.
One brunch at a Parisian feeling café later, that served up eggs benny and a lovely glass of rose, I came to the understanding that District 1, out of Saigon’s 24 Districts was clearly not where any local people lived.
It is where retail giants like Chanel, Versace and Botega Venetta lived. Who buys the latest Marcie Chloe bag in Saigon, I’m not entirely certain. But, they are here and for sale if you want them – with a special goods tax that the government you owe. Note: This is just one reason why people from Asia are buying in bulk on 5th Avenue. These are not less expensive here.
Cabe, at long last, arrived in Saigon and after we both “were in the lobby” waiting for one another, we realized that no, we were not staying at the same hotel. The Liberty Hotel actually has three locations in Saigon. Nevertheless, we met up and opted to not hit Armageddon, the club recommended by my hotel where all the kiddos in sneakers were gathering. Rather, we turned the corner and seeing that there were limited options, shrugged and went into one of the first establishments that crossed our path. We found ourselves in a country western themed “club” playing dance music. Avicii was blaring. The waiter had on a vest with fringe. There were maybe 7 people in the place and I could feel the bass rattle my ribs. Who could ask for more?
Eventually, old age prevailed and we had to roll out. The next two days were filled with taking in Saigon’s highlights. Such highlights include:
1. Independence Palace.
2. Notre Dame Cathedral + the Saigon Post Office. Who knew? Gustave Eiffel built other things than just that tower in Paris.
3. The Rex Hotel. Where reporters and the US seemed to hang out during the Vietnam war. Your cocktail will cost $14, FYI.
4. The Cu Chi Tunnels. Lots of history here.
5. The War Remnants Museum. Gulp.
SAIGON, IN SUMMARY
Good to be here, no need to go back. Westernized, modern food is more prevalent here and street food culture is less visible than in Hanoi. Like most of Vietnam, Saigon is changing and modernizing still – case in point, you can buy Christian Louboutin shoes next to a woman selling bananas out of baskets that are supported by a stick over her shoulders. The sights tourists are supposed to see are about the war, so when visiting I would imagine you will have an acute feeling that the US did a bit of a number on Vietnam in the 70s. We were here over Memorial Day, which was quite appropriate. But, as you began to understand the impact of things like Agent Orange and the My Lai Massacre, it becomes challenging to keep up your tourist pace and vibrant personality.
Cabe and I talked a bit that us visiting Vietnam is like our kids or even us touring through Iraq in forty years. How strange would that be? We / the US treat a country with aggression, force and prejudice and then a few decades later arrive as a tourist, wanting to be treated well and have feedback that it is still a “developing city” but oh, how far a USD gets you. Well, no shit, right? It was a country torn apart. It’s entirely sobering. And, if you think about any of it for too long – the B52 craters in Cu Chi, the fragging incidents in the army, the toxicity of some soil today where agent orange was sprayed at a level 100s of times higher than what was said to be safe – the facts become extraordinarily heavy, mind boggling and you don’t fully know what to do with them.
Miss Saigon. Girl packs a punch.