Thursday, December 3, 2009

Memories of Saigon

I first visited Vietnam in Feb 1994. I remember it clearly because I was just about to start a new job & it was the first time I was going on vacation alone. I've gone often on business trips by myself but travelling for pleasure on my own was something new & something I'd come to really enjoy.

You don't need to make sure somebody else can take leave with you. You don't have to follow anybody's agenda. You make new friends (you do when you travel alone).

Back then, Vietnam was off the beaten track. Everybody warned me about going there by myself but I met some of the nicest people & had an amazing trip. I flew in to Saigon, took the train to Nga Trang, got acquainted with a local boy who brought me to all the sights (long before the big resorts set up shop), I cried when we parted, travelled with a Japanese exchange student who drove me around in his motobike as we visited the masouleums in Hue and fell in love with Hanoi.

Back then, Vietnam was beautiful.

Now it's a lot more chaotic & a little less charming.

Everybody will tell you about the gazillion motor bikes on the road. It is no longer off the beaten track, that's for sure. Starbucks style coffee chains have sprouted, skyscrapers but mostly, people just seem to be in a hurry all the time, not unlike any other big city.

I've just about made up my mind that I shouldn't be going to places that I'd had been years ago for the sole reason that I want to preserve the memory of what it was like back then. What do you think ? Have you had this experience yourself ?

You're not going to see pictures of the sights of Saigon only because we didn't go to many. It's my third trip. I've already done that & didn't fancy doing them again. I've never been to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels so we did do that.

Here are some shots of what we did do & see.

I never noticed this before but now, you only need to look up to be confronted by masses of electrical wires. Don't they pose a fire hazard ?

How does he even know what to look for ?

You can find the French baguette at every corner & as popular as they may be, we couldn't bring ourselves to eat the pate that has been sitting out in the sun for god knows how long.

I cannot resist going to markets even if it means tripping over tourists . Ben Thanh market is one of the best. Dried food stuff, food stalls if you're feeling hungry, flowers, clothes, handicrafts, handbags, tourist trinkets...

I even found the blossoming tea that the Dutchess first introduced me to & can't wait to try them out.
X wants to know where in Singapore we can find fresh meat like this.....

...and this.....

I don't believe you can buy chunks of crab meat (already deshelled) like this in Singapore.

Soft shell crabs
(again if somebody knows where we can buy them fresh in Singapore,
please let me know)

My favorite building in HCM - The Main Post Office

While X was busy scribbling postcards to family & friends back in France (almost everybody wanted a postcard from Vietnam), I witnessed this little photoshoot

FYI the backdrop was a huge Christmas tree
check out the tourists like me taking photos of the photoshoot

Notre Dame, the backdrop of all the wedding photos of every married couple in HCM.

More on Vietnam coming up.


Anonymous said...

You mean fresh pork laid out on the table to sell in Spore's wet markets? Not happening anytime soon cos it will break AVA's rules on hygiene. All meat & poultry sold at wet markets have to be stored in chillers as stipulated by AVA. It used to be sold open air style but the law kicked in I think in the late 1990s.

The post office in Saigon looks exactly like our old central post office which is now the Fullerton Hotel. I so miss the old central post office as I used to work at Collyer Quay just opposite it from 1993 to 1997. In those days, internet was still in its infancy. I used to take the opportunity to post my letters there even though I could find letterbox in my neighbourhood. I love going into the main hall which has the exact same type of Art Deco look like in Saigon, the highlight of my trips there were to admire the very beautiful interior designed by the British colonial architects.

Nowadays, you cannot go in as often as you like as its a 5 star hotel.

Beau Lotus said...

I really hated those ubiquitous scooters and motobikes. The air was horrible not to mention the noise. Hub was there 20 years ago when they just opened up the country and it was a different and more beautiful world according to him. I find the wires hanging everywhere ugly too - but then it's developing really fast now so I guess they'll clean up sooner or later.

I agree with you that we meet more people when we travel alone. Only problem is having someone around when you need to share a joke or a comment. Otherwise, I've been invited to homes for a meal, taken here and there etc by total strangers and that surely because I was a girl travelling on my own. Glad I've done that too.