Vietnam Trip, Feb 2011: We returned to Saigon / Ho Chi Minh CIty after three quiet days in Sa Dec. It’s impossible in photos to capture the frenzy of Saigon’s busy streets, teaming with scooters, taxis, carts and people and about as noisy as you can imagine from very early until very late at night. Yet by the end of the trip we’d learned to tune out the hustle and bustle and focus on the charming sites and sounds as millions of residents go about their daily routines.
Some of the frenzy is simply what you find in most big cities, but I’d have to say that Saigon “felt” much busier to me than Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, or even Beijing or Shanghai. Unlike European and American cities I think Saigon / HCMC is growing very fast and changing reapidly, and unlike China’s megalopolises there’s not a lot of funding or guidance or enforcement of traffic and planning rules to channel the rapid development.
In Hoi An’s Historic District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,we toured some historic homes and had a chance to see how in many ways little seems to have changed over centuries of life in this cozy seaside town.
The rainy season in Hoi An brings the river up – way up – and most of the homes will need to move into the second floor as the first will be flooded to a depth of 3+ feet. A resident of this house – one of the oldest in the city – casually explained to us how she’d tie down the heavy furniture so it would not float away and then bring things up to their second floor. My understanding is that people get around by boat during the flood times.
The heavy rains of the wet season help explain why
construction in Vietnam is concrete and tile more than the wood and sheetrock built homes you would see in much of the USA.
Here’s the modern version of that kitchen in the same house, which is other kitchens we’ve seen in homes throughout Vietnam – small but very efficiently organized.
Few events in US History influenced the nation as much as the Vietnam war. France had created a colonial empire in Indochina but extreme nationalist tensions led the French to abandon their war against the communist nationalists and leave the country. Enter the USA which escalated the war against Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese nationalists and insurgents in the South. Ironically Ho Chi Minh had been a US ally in the war with Japan, fighting alongside the American CIA.
Despite dramatic military superiority, a massive bombing effort, and complex political tactics to enlist the support of the Vietnamese, the USA failed to quell the insurgency in the South
By 1975 unrest in the USA combined with instability in Vietnam led the US to pull out of the county abruptly. The North Vietnamese Army quickly overran the South and created a unified Vietnam under the communist form of Government.
Today, Vietnam and the USA are enjoying renewed relations and a tentative national friendship. Travel to Vietnam is increasing in popularity and offer the tourist very rich natural, cultural, and culinary experiences.