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Published: March 19th 2018
I'm leaving this afternoon. Saigon is a bustling, noisy, smelly, sometimes dirty, jigsaw of a city with all the pieces piled on top of one another yet all seeming to have a place in the overall picture. And then there's the traffic. The bikes buzz from dawn to dusk and the horns play the accompaniment. The fabled crossing of streets works well enough - I haven't seen anyone hit yet - it's a matter of choosing one's moment and not changing one's line when the crossing begins. Unlike the locals I still tend to keep an eye on the traffic as I "stroll" across.
It's an intriguing mix of areas. This morning I walked to the Post Office about 20 minutes away, which is a work of art designed and built by the French - Eiffel I think designed it - and that area has the Opera House, the Catholic Cathedral, the People's Committee Hall, the Ho Chi Minh Memorial, and high end hotels with glitzy department stores and malls; behind all this, in back streets, are the ubiquitous crowded footpath stalls, pokey shops, old men sitting on the pavement drinking coffee, smoking, talking, motorscooter touts trying to get one
to jump on the back of their bikes and take a spin, massage place scouts thrusting leaflets at one....it really is what makes being here so different.
My three days here have been interesting, living as I am in the backpacker's area. It's full of young people (with some of us older ones sneaking in), backpacks on and looking like they could deal with anything that gets thrown at them. German, French (lots), American, Australian, English, Chinese accents everywhere; shorts, tanned legs, pony tails, beards, ankle bracelets, tattoos etc. You can picture it. The bars and eateries around here cater for them and there is lots of live music later in the week. Happy hours the norm.
My hotel, The Beautiful Saigon, has been great. Excellent staff and service, cheap, breakfast ok, room quiet, central enough to walk places and not too far away to get a taxi if you'd rather not perspire overly. A bonus, for a cheap hotel, has been free use of a swimming pool only 30 seconds walk away down a side street. It belongs to this hotel group and at the end of the day it's heaven to slide into, see the steam
come off the body and relax in.
It appears that HCHM is getting a makeover. There's a major Metro underground in construction, not with Chinese partners but with Japanese. I don't think the Chinese are flavour of the month around here. The South China Sea disputes have seen to that. The Saigon Riverside has also been spruced up and the War Museum looks way more presentable than it did only 18 months ago when Lyn and I were here. The city authorities are also trying to ban motorscooters from parking on footpaths. Good luck with that! No impression being made at the moment. When I'm at the War Museum I wonder what visiting Americans must think as they tour the three floors and are faced with a constant barrage of visuals based on the totally 100% Vietnam view of the war. Among others the sections devoted to the lasting effects of Agent Orange would make anyone feel that maybe their country hasn't a alot to be proud of here. As for the torture section.......(we were here too of course).
Looking forward to getting home and to catching up with everyone. Arriving Tuesday around 5.00pm in Wellies. YAY!!!
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