Thursday, September 18, 2008

Days 20-21: Saigon, Vietnam

The road to Saigon was long--and Hoi An was only (roughly) the half-way point.

1,900 kilometers is a long distance, especially with narrow roads. In fact, Vietnam has only one road from Hanoi to Saigon, and the only other alternative is the much longer Ho Chi Minh Trail. So, at times, it tended to be packed.

Our sleeper bus got a flat tire along the way. We stopped at the tourist (beach) resort towns of Nha Trang and Mui Ne before making it to Saigon some 26 hours after departure. We were only about two hours late.

Saigon felt like a paradox, having been renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975 following the fall of the city in the Vietnam War. That sounds a little quaint, for today it is the undisputed business capital of Vietnam, being its richest and biggest city (nearly 6 million people live there) but carrying the title of Vietnam's communist hero. What a paradox.

The Vietnamese people in the south are different from their northern cousins. Not only is the language slightly different, but the north Vietnamese constantly told me how the southerns love to earn and spend all their money, whereas they (the northerners) prefer to save it.

As far as tourist attractions go, Saigon didn't have many of them. What it did have, though, was an amazing bar, club, and restaurant scene, which made for nice nightlife--even on a Sunday night.

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