Ho Chi Minh (Saigon): the new Vietnam
Saigon, "Ho Chi Minh City", Where i begin my Vietnam travel with final destination Hanoi. Year 1900, Saigon is romantic, has dusty roads, slow rhythms, is like a small town in Provence, but it is an important city.
It is a small Paris: capital of French Indochina, has a Gothic cathedral named Notre-Dame and even a new opera house. But, it is in Asia. I can still feel the exotic charm of little Paris looking at the yellow patina of an ancient photograph of Dong Khoi, the main street of Saigon. It's my first day in Saigon and I'm on the top floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower, the city's first skyscraper.
Year 2013, Saigon is no longer capital, nor is it a city and is the 1er arrondissement, or the most central district of the city of Ho Chi Minh. The cathedral is still called Notre-Dame, but the opera house is closed. It still resembles Paris, but also Milan and New York. There are boutiques of the most chic brands, luxury hotels, Italian, French, Japanese restaurants, steak houses and tapas bars. In Dong Khoi there is even a German brewery. Boutiques, griffes, chique. Dong Khoi is still romantic.
The city of Ho Chi Minh is the new Vietnam, it is Vietnam with one foot in the future. It is a vibrant city, full of life, lights and young people. It is international, it is a metropolis that has opened the challenge in Bangkok and Singapore to become one of the most important "hubs" of South East Asia. Ho Chi Minh is the center of the business and financial power of a country whose GDP grows at an average of 5.2% per year. The multinational companies open their offices here. The stock exchange is also here and is bigger than Hanoi's capital. Many young Hanoi graduates are also in Ho Chi Minh. There are those who work in the offices, those with tourism, who make the artist or who, more simply, the taxi driver. Ho Chi Minh beats in Hanoi also on beer. Apart from the artisanal ones, there are four Saigon beers: Saigon Red, Saigon Green, Saigon Special and the legendary 333, also known by Ba Ba Ba. An advice. If you are at your fifth beer and are willing to order a Ba Ba Ba as a sixth, limit yourself to English to speak with the waiters. So avoid pronouncing Ba Ba Ba with a kneaded mouth. You will look like the retarded. I guarantee it. If you have already done so, do not worry, there is no limit to the worst. In fact, by pronouncing only twice 'Ba Ba' you will order a grandmother. Seriously, Vietnamese beer is really good, it is a pilsener, the same breed as Czech or Hungarian beers, it is a typical product and every important city has its own. Surprisingly, Vietnam is one of the Asian countries with more tradition in terms of beer. This is thanks to the Czechoslovakian brewers who, around the end of the sixties, were invited by the Communist government of North Vietnam with the highest purpose of introducing the Vietnamese to the processing of hops.
The city of Ho Chi Minh is also the center of nightlife, there are many discos, trendy clubs and beautiful native girls. It's fun. Be careful, especially the boys, not all that glitters is gold. In fact, during the American occupation of Saigon, Dong Khoi had already lost its colonial aura and was a dirty street full of economic pensions, drug dealers and brothels. Borders for use and consumption of American soldiers who returned or left for the front. Today, unfortunately, some brothels and some drug dealers remained. I'm downtown, in Saigon. Near the opera house, which remained closed.
To better understand the atrocity and the horror of the Vietnam war or the 'American war' (as the Vietnamese call it), I recommend visiting the War Remnants Museum and planning a guided tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and travel saigon tourist tour. At Cu Chi there is a kind of city formed by underground galleries. These tunnels were used by the VietCong to defend themselves and counterattack the sorties of American soldiers. These are very narrow and dark tunnels where the fighters were forced to spend weeks. The Cu Chi Tunnels are located in the middle of a forest where there are no deadly traps. Traps that were originally used for hunting animals, whose use was converted during the war.
Fortunately today, the use of these traps has changed again, they are all widely reported and are completely used and book guided tours Vietnam tripadvisor
My advice is to start your Vietnam tour from Ho Chi Minh. The cultural shock will be dampened by the fact that you will be in the most modern city in the country. Furthermore, according to my experience, the HCMC international airport offers better connections to Europe than that of the capital. The other reason, perhaps the most important, is that starting from Ho Chi Minh you will have more time to discover the real Vietnam. It seems absurd, but starting from the less Vietnamese and more modern city you will have enough time to metabolize and savor this fantastic country.