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Destination: Ho Chi Minh

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By Oneal Hector D'Cunha, Abu Dhabi [ Published Date: November 7, 2010 ]

Destination within a destination is Ho Chi Minh City if you intend visiting Vietnam. A troubled history and a country that was ruled or dictated by various dynasties and foreigners including French, Chinese, and Americans. The country (North and South) has now been fully integrated in most sense of the term after the bloody infamous American War that’s cost over 3,000,000 Vietnamese and 60,000 Americans lives, three decades ago. This write up is definitely not about that war but about the people of that wonderful country, a new generation, a resilient nation that says with a genuine smile ‘welcome and whisper it’s time to move on’.

Saigon the erstwhile capital of South Vietnam is now called Ho Chi Minh since 1976, this city is named after the national hero and father of the Nation Ho Chi Minh.  Statues and portraits of HCM can be found across Vietnam. Hanoi is based in the North and is the capital of Vietnam, while Ho Chi Minh is the commercial capital and located in the southern region and the distance between the two cities is over a thousand kms (Something between Mumbai and Bengaluru). The city is located on the banks of River Saigon and therefore people still use the word Saigon irrespective of the political affiliation. The city has a population of over 7 million and the first thing that you will take note is that 60% of the roads are buzzing with Mopeds needless to say of every conceivable brand of two wheelers.

















































However the greenery in the heart of the city absorbs much of the carbon emissions of those streams of two wheelers, something like our own Bengaluru but the difference is that people are extremely patient. Lots of road side eateries and eating appears to be a favorite national past time. Rice is a staple diet and ‘Congi’ is served even in star hotels, which isn’t surprising as Vietnam is a leading member of OREC (organization of Rice Exporting Countries). There is lots to do but some of the must see or must do are a visit to the Nortre Dame Cathedral, the adjacent district post office, the reunification palace, the Saigon river cruise, the Ben Than Market and notably the War Museum. Discretion is advised if one is visiting this  museum especially the images of the war could be haunting and grueling. The facts and figures in Vietnam if anything today must be a cause for peace, as war should be unimaginable, forever.

Qatar Airways now flies direct flights from Doha to Ho Chi Minh for Gulf based travelers, however excellent connections are available via, Bangkok, Singapore, KL or HK.

A few small observations: People are warm and genuine at least in HCM City and found fewer people wearing cone caps, as I was confined to the urban areas. The most exhilarating experience is the feeling of being a millionaire! A 100 USD is equivalent to 2 Million Vietnamese Dongs (the cost of taxi from the airport to the downtown will be approximately 100,000 Dongs). US Dollars are widely accepted, rather preferred an irony that substantiates that ‘money has no political color’.

The most puzzling question is how does a telecom technician fix a telephone malfunction, with hundreds of cables intertwined on each pole. On the other hand the bifurcation of the city’s expanse is extremely simplified through the district numbers 1-12 eg You have District 1, District 2….so on and therefore since Language is a barrier where not many Vietnamese are fluent in English, yet one can get in and around HCM City by saying the District Number, if you are carrying a map with you. Learning Vietnamese is not difficult either (I guess) as ‘Man’ is ‘Nam’.  Food wasn’t an issue as you have plenty of tropical fruits to choose from, if sea food, fast food isn’t appealing. Vietnamese are contended and happy in their simplicity. Ho Chi Minh (means “bringer of light”) has truly enlightened its citizens today and truly is a highly recommended place to visit.

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satish rao m, India :
Vietnam is one of the few emerging Nations of the World and people of that country are having all the qualities to make best use of opportunities. I wish and hope to see that one day it will listed as developed nation
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain :
Before 1975, there used to be two Vietnams, namely North Vietnam having Hanoi as its capital and under communism (backed by its two masters, namely U.S.S.R. and China) and South Vietnam having Saigon as its capital and this country was backed by U.S.A., which pumped in millions of dollars and modern technology.

Sadly, the South Vietnamese Government was totally corrupt and sadly due to anti-war demonstrations in the U.S.A., the subsequent U.S. Governments of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon decided to quit and leave their allies high and dry.

After 1975, South Vietnam was taken over by the North Vietnamese communists and Saigon became Ho Chi Minh city. To all intents and purposes, Hanoi is the politcal capital and erstwhile Saigaon, by which name it is still known today, is the commercial capital.

During the fall of South Vietnam, most of the top brass and guns ran to U.S.A. for asylum.
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain :
After South Vietnam collapsed to North Vietnam and its capital was renamed from Saigon to Ho Cho Minh, Vietnam has been named into Vietnam.

In short, Hanoi is the political capital unified capital and whether he, his relations
Chris Rego, UAE:
Hey Oneal,

It looks like you were coming back from Sir Bani Yas to AUH when you made a U-turn and headed to the airport to fly out to Vietnam. If the Lord's ways are indeed mysterious, so are the traveler's. Right, Oneal?

Great pics & writeup. Keep up the good work.
Lumina Fernandes-Mumbai , India :
O'neal, congrats once again on your adventurous spirit - you ought to join DISCOVERY CHANNEL - appreciate your vivid and graphic description of the city and your excellent photography! The city looks beautiful by night and the hordes of two wheelers reminds me of Chennai too!! Yes, Vietnam has a horrendous history of war, particularly Cambodia where between the 60's and 70's the Guerilla Despot POL POT regined. He wiped out the city of its inhabitants sending them to the outskirts where they had to subsist on meagre rations, and banished trade, shut down schools and buddhist monastries and everyone was forced to wear black pyjamas! It is indeed heartening to note that HCM - BRINGER OF LIGHT has indeed dispelled the period of darkness and like the Sphinx has risen from the ashes of war!!
Himanshu, India :
Truly Amazing, I think HCM is a prefect example of a city walking the path of positive change. Besides the troubled past and zillion lives lost the acceptance of this change with togetherness has truly brought the light.
A.S.Mathew, USA :
Beautiful pictures and article about the Ho Chi Minh city.

Death and taxes are real, but the war
and deaths in millions will bewilder and prick our conscience.
Total Comments: 7   Showing: 1-7

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