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Vietnam

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Saigon

I know that is not the right name for Ho Chi Minh City (or, as some of the natives say, HCM - the rest of the people who live here still say Saigon). Today we were supposed to travel almost two hours to get to a town to visit the tunnels used by the Vietcong. Neither of us were interested and so we arranged to spend our one day here touring the center city and its markets (we have found that markets are a good place to see the real city). This market had everything in it: dry goods, fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, clothes, luggage, hair products, perfume, you name it. The booths selling liquor stocked a liquor that it supposed to increase male virility. The liquor bottles contain snakes, mostly cobras.

After the Catholic missionaries were thrown out of China, they came to Viet Nam. There is a large Catholic population reinforced by the French colonization. It was the missionaries who introduced the Roman alphabet into the Vietnamese language so that the Bible could be translated. The main cathedral is larger than one might expect and looks for all the world like a Western church, including the traditional depictions of the saints and other trappings. However, the cathedral is surprisingly stark, a real contrast to other Roman Catholic cathedrals around the world.

The restaurant where we had lunch was, as most of them have been in Viet Nam, well appointed and the food delicious. Right outside the restaurant there were a number of on-the-street shops frequented by the locals. Notable, there were several outdoor barber stands.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent touring through the city. We went to Chinatown. I expected a Chinatown like that in SF or NY. What we saw instead was street upon street of wholesale and retail shops selling everything imaginable. I have never seen anything like it. To make us feel at home we passed by the first fast food chain to invade Viet Nam, KFC. Our guide told us that KFC was a bit of a hard sell here because the food is comparatively dry; the Vietnamese people liked their food with more moisture, like noodle soup.

We are getting ready to return to the US. It is a day and a half flight including airport layovers. There comes a time in any trip when the sights begin to seem less interesting and new. It is time to go home.

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Hanoi-1 | Hanoi-2 | Danang | Saigon | Observations

HOME  |  AUSTRALIA 2003  |  ACROSS AMERICA  |  IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA  |  VIETNAM  |  AFRICA  |  AROUND THE WORLD 2009  |  SOUTH AMERICA 2009  |  LEGENDARY CULTURES 2011
  |  TURKEY AND GREECE  |  CIRCLE THE ARCTIC