Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Saigon, Vietnam

My brother Victor manages a small manufacturing company in Ho Chi Minh City. He began in 2004 and, much to his credit, now speaks fluent Vietnamese. Saigon, the capital city of the French Colony from 1862 to 1948 and renamed Ho Chi Minh in 1976, boasts 9 million inhabitants. This is a bustling city. Ho Chi Minh City is the most important economic center in Vietnam. It was hot and humid (90 degrees F) when we arrived.....

Victor, far right with his office staff - Vietnamese is mostly spoken here with some English.

Gasoline-powered mopeds are everywhere - they rule the roads - it is overwhelmingly chaotic but soon one gets used to it.

Surprisingly, there are few accidents - motorists and passengers seem to pretty much self negotiate and navigate the wild streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

Gerda and Hannah reading World Magazine on the busy street of Ho Chi Minh - notice the Vietnamese characters on the poster - don't ask me what they were saying - it is 'Greek' to me.....

War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. While it was educational, it was hard for Gerda to witness history documented in pictures and artifacts, and stories told only from the Vietnamese side. War is a terrible many lives lost.

Photo of Senator John Kerry (one-time US Presidential candidate) meeting with Vietnamese officials.

A poignant light of two concurrent US-led wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wonder what the Iraqi and Afghan people are thinking the same as the poster. May God grant our leaders wisdom and integrity as they deal with difficult world situations.

Weapons of war......

A grounded F-5 Northrup Tiger - as a result, a US fighter pilot was probably either captured or killed.

More captured weapons of war....

Reunification Palace - this was the residence of the President of South Vietnam before it fell to the communist regime. It was quite opulent in a 1960s sort of way - equipped with a heli pad, a dance hall with a wooden floor, a movie theater, and a basement chuck full of military- grade equipment serving as a command post to conduct the war....

Manicured lawn with working fountain.

One of many rooms to receive guests and dignitaries - red symbolizes prosperity and good luck for the Chinese/Asians.

High ceilings and wide hallways.....

I don't think you can get this carpet at your local Walmart - again red is the 'in' color with the twin dragons symbolizing power and longevity. The diameter is probably about 20 feet....

If walls could talk... I have no doubt important issues were discussed in this huge meeting room. The color - green in this case - has a soothing/calming effect. No doubt tempers flared during negotiations and discussions between the North and South Vietnamese.

The President's private family dining room

The President's private movie theater - bring your own pop-corn and favorite beverage

Netflix anyone?

The President's private helicopter - not exactly Marine One!
(This part of the roof was bombed and later on restored)

This was housed in the basement.

Can I Wi-Fi from the basement?

From long before Gerda had her Kitchen-Aid mixer. She said she has seen one of these on board the USS Yorktown (see earlier post).

Stir-fry anyone?

The President's most prized possession - I mean the Mercedes!

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. While the majority of people (80%) in Ho Chi Minh City practice eastern religions (Buddhism/Taoism - there are numerous temples), a small percentage (Roman Catholic - 11%, Protestant - 2%) worship in churches - most notable is the somewhat smaller, twin version of the original Notre-Dame in Paris.

Statue of Mary outside Notre-Dame.

While it was not as grand as the one I visited in Paris back in 2000, it was still a beautiful church - certainly a sanctuary amid a hustling city.

The church was completed on Easter Day, April 11 1880.

Beautifully maintained stained windows.

Downtown Post Office. We visited this famous landmark where one can actually still send snail mail.

While the Post Office wasn't air-conditioned, there were several phone booths that were - a welcome respite from the sweltering heat.

These high arched ceilings allow hot air to rise, bringing some relief to both workers and customers.

Looking for Christmas stuffing stockers?

Vietnamese Pho
. One must savor this local favorite delight - rice noodles served in rich beef stock with beef, plenty of greens, touch of lime and chili peppers!!!

7up is bottled here - no cans. Seeing this brought back many childhood memories. In those days, our family drank soft drinks only once a year, during Chinese New Year, and we had to split one bottle between two -three siblings with LOTS of ice. How things have changed!

Dam Sen Water Park. Like fish to water, we needed relief from the sweltering heat. Both Hannah and David relaxing and enjoying the tidal pool

As you can tell from the background, many locals had the same idea. The water park was lined with coconut trees which provided much shade and relief as well.

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