Yesterday afternoon we flew into Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). We did not expect to be dazzled, but we have had our socks knocked off by this lively, exciting city. About 10 million people live here, and the majority are young and lively. There are 6 million motor bikes, so that coming here you are plunged into swarming rivers of them, like schools of fish flowing through all the streets. It seems chaotic at first, but as you watch you become aware that it has rules, people follow them, and it is quite orderly. Everyone wears helmets and face masks to avoid breathing the exhaust fumes. Young women ride dressed in tight skirts and very high-heeled shoes. Whole families ( up to 5 allowed) ride in human sandwiches, with babies squeezed in front of, between, and behind their parents. People are carrying all sorts of stuff: long ladders, lengths of pipe or lumber, huge pieces of furniture like armoires and refrigerators, stacks of cartons filled with cooking oil, huge bags of chicken feet, pineapples, mountains of t-shirts, whole coffee shops, including counter, supplies, tables and chairs. We are told that an occasional live water buffalo (tied up) is carried on a motor bike, but we haven't seen that.
The city is approaching a huge holiday, New Years (Feb. 1) so everything is decorated to the hilt, with colored lights, street sculptures, etc..it looks a bit like a very wealthy Las Vegas. All the big, fancy stores are here, and the streets are packed with fashionably dressed people wending their way amidst the motorbikes. Out hotel is right in downtown, easy walk to anything. Our room looks out at a huge city park (23rd September) named after the date of the beginning of the Tet Offensive, when the peoples hero, Ho Chi Minh, started the push to capture back South Vietnam. The hero is everywhere, smiling down genially at everyone. The park is full of people exercising all day and into the night, badminton, skateboarding, playing soccer, tai chi, dancing, playing handball, and so much more!
The vibe here is joyful, electric, youthful, prosperous, fun. It feels a little like Paris or San Francisco. So far, we love it!
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