We arrived at the port of Phu My, Vietnam and were taken by bus (1.5 hour drive) to the city of Ho Chi Minh City, AKA City of Saigon. When the North Vietnamese won the war in 1975 they renamed the city in honor of their revolutionary leader who actually died in 1969 and while Ho Chi Minh is the official name, both names are still used. Residents even call themselves “Saigonites”. Along the way all the streets we traveled reminded me of all the other Asian streets I have seen in the past forty years of moving around Asia – some things never change. Small shops of all kinds line the sidewalks, scooters/mopeds zig and zag through traffic, with traffic, against traffic, around traffic into and out of shops and we watch in amazement wondering why we don’t see any dead bodies lying around.
As we approached Saigon our guide told us how the cost of housing increases the closer we get to the city. When we first began this bus trip in Phu My a one bedroom, one bath 400 sq ft condo/apartment started at around USD $140,000. By the time we reached Saigon the price for the exact same place was up to USD $500,000.
As we approached Saigon we could see the landscape changes from farms, small businesses, small houses to large buildings, big businesses and condos. When we toured downtown I noticed a few buildings from days past. One hotel in particular was very popular with the GIs “back in the day”. The old CIA building that was the last chance for escaping folks to get on the last helicopter out of the city before the North Vietnamese showed up was still standing, but I don't know what it is currently being used for.
I also noticed the Trash Collectors going down the street. I don’t know what kind of schedule they’re on, but they seem to do a pretty good job at keeping things clean. I was originally concerned when I saw a store owner come out with a plastic bag full of trash and just toss it under the tree in front of his store, but then the Trash Collector showed up and retrieved the bag. I only saw this collection for stores so I don’t know what the “normal” folks do with their trash.
When we visited the statue of Ho Chi Minh there were a number of school girls in their teens all dressed up in traditional Vietnamese clothes taking or having their pictures taken by others. I’m not sure what the occasion was, but I did notice the extreme change in these girls from the girls of yesteryear – they have obviously been eating a lot of Big Macs and Whoppers. That extra protein works wonders on a gal’s shape…for the better. ;-)
Julieann attended a water puppet show that evidently was impressive, but my back restricted me, once again, to the bus. I really enjoyed visiting the city. It has come a VERY long way since “the day” and the people could not be friendlier.
That night we left Vietnam and had a day a sea. A day at sea means another “formal night” where I get all dressed up to look like a penguin. Julieann, on the other hand, is dressed to kill, looking fantastic. Just doesn’t seem fair, does it?