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Saigon is the Bomb

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Saigon is the newest, richest, and most lively city in all of Vietnam, and has a lot of history with the US through the Vietnam War. (The government tried to change its name to Ho Chi Minh City but all the locals still call it Saigon.) From the old US Arny bases to the VietCongs Cu Chi Tunnels and the various museums concerning the war, the area sheds alot of history. The group and I visited the Cu Chi tunnels the first day in Saigon, which lie roughly 20 miles north of the city. This complex boobytrapped tunnel system spanned hundreds of kilometers and was an important base for the Viet-Cong (the bad guys).
I was amazed they had a base so close to the American HQ in Saigon, but I learned why. The tunnels were almost completely self-sufficient; the men only came up for a short time at night to empty their toilet pots. Even the smoke from their cooking was directed through a series of vents so that it would emerge far away from the tunnel, to protect from bombs. Even so, something like 25x more Viet-Cong died for every American that died there (1,000 something Americans KIA, 25,000 VC KIA). Shown to the left is an example of a tunnel system. The boobytraps were so hidden that the soldiers could only stay in their own tunnels simply because those were the only ones they knew where the traps were.

Saigon itself is a very modern city though Western food chains are just starting to come into the city (I'm DYING for a good hamburger...) There is everything a tourist would want, and loads of Viet businesses, banks, tall buildings, fast cars, and large developments. This is where all ambitious or poor Vietnamese looking for a job end up, and it shows. There are people everywhere trying to sell you things. I made a joke, you don't need to even go anywhere in Saigon, sellers walk up to you with anything and everything. Books, food, snacks, drinks, hookers, drugs, motorscooters, bracelets, clothes...and this was just after walking back from dinner!
Only one of those illegal offerings caught my eye though, and that was the $3 book catalogs they had! Vendors and bookstores would have little book catalogs with the front and back covers of popular books copied on a page, you would flip through, point to the one you wanted, and only pay $3. Its genius. And the currency they use is dollars(mostly), which makes budgeting 10x easier and gives a cool little peace of mind.

Interesting Fact #39: On almost all men aged 40 and above who have moles, they sport mole-hair a couple inches long and its quite unsettling. Asian men regard their facial moles with reverence and allow their mole hair grow to its full length. Its very weird.

After a nice stay in Saigon for two days, we were off for the Mekong Delta region to the south of Saigon. This area is incredibly populated with Vietnamese and also ethnic minorities because it contains the most productive land and consistant water supplies in the entire country. While many of the northern provinves are able to produce only one crop of rice each year, the Mekong Delta produces three. The entire area is flat, and either built or farmed out. We spent an entire day of biking through the region and the region is flat, dense, and completely built out with many houses with small farms with a large commercial boulevard here and there. Canals run along almost every single pathway. The transportation through the entire region is by small concrete and hard-dirt pathways, big enough for two motorscooters or bikes to pass each other, but not for a car.

After all the biking was through, we arrived at our beautiful homestay situated right over the river. We ate just as the sun was setting over the river and the big sky which was breathtaking, except for the insane, relentless mosquitos. Overall my experience of Vietnam was amazing, the country has much to offer tourists, at the right prices, and with a solid structure in place to serve any need, from local touring to world-class golfing. The people are very ambitious and the most forward-thinking and progressive I have come across, this is definately a country whose economy is sure to continue developing into the future. The population has put away the events of the past, mostly due to the population being born after the events, and the fact that American culture/society is the model they take after (though their progress resembles China). I would highly recommend both Hue and Hoi An as beautiful and cheap travel destinations for those looking to vacation, and a visit to Saigon for the experience of the museums and the big city.

I hope everybody is doing well, leave comments if you can, and feel free to contact me about anything! All the best.



permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on March 7, 2009 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Vietnam, MekongDelta, Johncrestani, Saigon, Cuchitunnels, Vietcong and Americanjohn

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