Saigon II

Back in Ho Chi Minh City now… It’s nice to be back on the tourist-trail for a change! The bia hoi places are always full of other backpackers and theres plenty of things to see and do. I’ve been spending my days exploring the city on foot, cyclo and moto and my nights making friends over bia hoi.

A few days ago I hired a cyclo driver to take me around Cholon, the chinatown district of HCMC.

A sidenote: most people that live here in the south refer to the city by its old name, Saigon. It’s official name is Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) - Saigon is technically only the name of district 1.

Tho (the driver) spoke very good English and I learned quite a bit from him about the recent history of Vietnam. He fought alongside the Americans during the war, but when the south was “liberated” he lost his right to live legally in HCMC (his home) just like most south vietnamese soldiers who survived the war. Now the only way he knows to make a living is by operating as a freelance tour-guide with his cyclo. He was very pro-America and excited to show me around; He told lots of stories and took me to some places I would never have known about otherwise. The last stop on the tour was the War Remnants Museum, which presented the complete opposite view on the American War (its only the “Vietnam War” to us). There were several exhibitions of photographs, a short film and displays of various weapons. The underlying theme of everything there, though, was to put America and its agenda during the war in a bad light. It was a very good visit just to be able to hear both sides of the propaganda machine.

War Machines War Machines

I also paid a visit to the Fine Arts Museum and ended up liking the tiles far more than the art:

Squares 3 Squares 5

The food is a major highlight of Saigon as well! I’m adding another layer to my noodle-soup obsession with pho bo and hu tiu… Last night I met a Vietnamese chef who lives in San Diego and is spending a few months here as a student at a Vietnamese culinary school before he plans to open his own restaurant back home. He gave me a very detailed recipe for pho, including the chinese names of the 6 spices and cuts of beef involved so I can buy them in any city with a proper chinatown (SF!). Later on this evening I’ll be joining him for a 7-course gourmet meal at his friend’s restaurant… I’ll bring my camera.

I’ve posted some videos to show how insane the traffic is here on YouTube. Here’s a link.