>Day 31. Saigon (part 1)

>(posted on day 33–I’m going to try to cut in half to get it posted–it doesn’t seem to want to download my photos)

Many people still refer to this city as Saigon….it is still the code for the airport here (SGN). Although the name has been changed to Ho Chi Minh City. It is a great city! Quite cosmopolitan, and teeming with activity! I came here once before with Bonnie in 1997 (before the other tourists), and we loved it. We used to hang out at night at the “Q” Bar (hmmm, I think I still have a hat and shirt from there…should have brought them), although I don’t think the bar exists any longer.

My first impression upon arriving last night was that there are not as many bicycles, although there are still thousands of motorcycles!

The trick to getting across the street here is to wait for a small break in traffic, and then just step off of the curb and start walking….don’t go fast, don’t slow down, don’t stop once you’ve started walking…they will maneuver around you….of course, that doesn’t apply to cars and trucks!! Bonnie and I were at first very intimidated by this, and kept hesitating (which is the only time people here were rude to us :-), but we became pros by the time we left here. And I’m still pretty good at it

Also not as many ao dais. That is a silk dress or long top with slits, worn over silk pants, which is the traditional dress here. Everyone instead has on blue jeans :-). They still wear the ao dais for dress-up occasions. Also not as many cone hats (although I just saw one as I write this). I’m sure they are still prevalent in the market areas.

Also, while here in 1997, we met Sue, who is a friend of Tina’s, who has now become a really good friend of ours. She has stopped off to see me in NYC several times (even nursing me through one of my bad health weekends). I’m extremely bummed because when I finally had this trip all set, Sue is in the States during my visit here, so I won’t get to see her. But her business colleague, Duc Do, is picking me up this morning (in a 1969 jeep) to take me to her oasis here in the city for a brief stay before I head up to Sa Pa, which is in the northwestern part of the country. Bonnie and I missed that area while here, and so I’m going to check it out on this trip. In addition to Saigon, on that trip in 1997, we visited the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war–quite fascinating how they lived underground and traveled for miles underground to accomplish their surprise attacks…a form of warfare that the US was totally unprepared for. Also the Cao Dai temple which was also fascinating. Then we went to Dalat, which we didn’t like (too “western” touristy); then Nha Trang (nice beach area); traveled up the wonderful coastline to Hoi An, Hue and finally Hanoi, including the Halong Bay. One of the remembrances from that trip up the coastline, was when our driver, who spoke very little English, stopped to buy us watermelon. I think he thought we had never had it because we were commenting on their small size (about the size of large grapefruit). Anyway, while we were stopped, sitting on these little stools along the road in who knows where Vietnam, eating the sweetest watermelon I had ever had, a young junior high school boy ran over to us and started asking us questions about America. We were the first Americans he had ever seen, and he was very excited. He was very bright and said he wanted to go to college for business in America and then come back to Vietnam and make lots of money doing business with Americans. We told him that his English was excellent, and he had us write a note to his teacher to let her know that we thought so. He was so impressive, and it was so cool. I hope he got his wish to study in America!

Anyway back to this trip…..so after picking me up in the “one of a kind” jeep….

Duc dropped me off in the main market area. I walked around for about four hours in the market and surrounding area….

(to be continued)…

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