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Old Saigon, New Ho Chi Minh City

Call it Saigon. Call it Ho Chi Minh City. To me this capital is the perfect example in Asia of past meeting present, of capitalism and skyscrapers descending on a city. During the first five minutes of walking around in HCMC, I spotted an older woman wearing a traditional hat crossing the street with an old building and gleaming new one in the background:

To use a bit of a cliched phrase, HCMC was a bustling metropolis. There were plenty of motorcycles and traffic. I found HCMC interesting, but I think the skyscrapers and traffic reminded me a bit of Jakarta, so I wasn’t crazy about the place or smitten the way I was with Hanoi. Would it be a good place to live? Based on the dining and night life scene I saw, I think so. But tourism-wise, I found three days to be enough.

Like almost everywhere I’ve visited in Asia (Laos being the exception) malls and designer brands like Burberry have firmly staked out their spots, including in the beautiful buildings around City Hall (so much for stringent communism?):

The War Remnants Museum was our first stop of the trip. Old American planes and helicopters sit in the outdoor courtyard and Vietnamese men missing arms approach tourists with piles of books for sale. The museum focuses on the Vietnam War and the atrocities that occurred during the war. Told, of course, from the Vietnamese perspective, so don’t expect something approaching a balanced account. One quote that I noticed several times came from a famous American:

“We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.” –Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense

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