Friday, February 29, 2008

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was Saigon before South Vietnam was reunited with the north in 1975. I have many Vietnamese friends who would say it was liberated in 1975 after decades of war. In the 60s before the war directly affected South Vietnam, Saigon was one of the biggest and most modern cities in South East Asia, surpassing Singapore and may be even Hong Kong. Its colonial masters, especially the French, left behind many good infrastructures and unique buildings. You will notice that the major roads in HCMC are all very broad and straight, scenes reminiscent of the boulevard in Paris. The war had not damaged the infrasctructures and buildings in HCMC, but it did delay its progress and development for at least 20 years. Generally HCMC is a cheap and safe place for tourists. It is a heaven for food lovers, for shopping of fashion and handbags made of silk, handicrafts made of lacquer,silk and buffalo horn. There are also plenty of antiques although most are not genuine. I had several experiences of buying the so called top name branded antique wrist watches and pens...but it is total disappointment each time I brought them back for the expert to check. On one occassion my friend and I each bought more than 20 pieces of these watches. When later at the hotel room we found out that some were mulfunctioning, we went back to the small shop where we bought them only to find the shop had closed. We were thinking perhaps we had bought almost all the watches in his possession that he just had to close shop before the next batch of "antique" watches arrive. Before I forget, I must mention that HCMC is the Motorcycle Capital of the world. There are hundreds of thousands of motorcycles crisscrossing the streets and lanes of this bustling city of 8 million people.

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