…that was the slogan on the streets in Munich when many, many young people, mainly students, demonstrated against the Vietnam war. I was one of them. That war was on German TV news every single evening for quite some years. And “normal” people became apathetic to it. There is only so much information you can take. And if it’s about something that really does not interfere with your own life – you get fed up and stop paying attention.
At least this is the only explanation I have why this American war could continue for so many years and kill so many millions of people – and for what? To please the pig-headed US-politicians, who, in the wake of the McCarthy area, saw communism as the biggest threat to mankind and who believed, if Vietnam would fall into the hands of communism this whole area of Asia would follow suit.
And back then, like now, the country that stands as a symbol for human rights and freedom, had no problem to use chemical weapons of mass destruction against civilians, torture opponents and so on. But we all know this. Or at least we should.
Anyway, I start my Saigon-show with a photo of the place that was the heart of Vietnam during the time of the war, because it was shown on TV many, many times. It’s also the building where the war officially ended when the Vietcong tanks rolled through its gates.
Enough of that sad matter. For now.
Yesterday, I really had a hard time. Kind of a crisis. a physical and psychological one.I was kind of fed up with Vietnam. Could not stand the smells of rotting and fermentation in the markets any more, was tired of having to defend myself against being ripped-off, could not stand the dirt everywhere any more…and so on, and so on.
Now that I am in Ho Chi Minh City (stupid name, sounds like “Karl-Marx-Stadt”), amazingly my spirits have picked up and I am back to my old bad self (without the cigarettes!)
Saigon is really different from the rest of Vietnam. Not only is it bigger than Hanoi in terms of inhabitants but it is buzzing with life. And capitalism and venture capitalism. 6% of the Vietnamese population produce more than 30% of GNP here! But these are only figures. You can see and feel the difference to the rest of the country in real life. People are more outgoing, entrepreneurial – also more superficial and consumer orientated. In short words: more Western For someone coming from capitalist Europe this has some appeal. Because it makes the place “familiar”.
There is this phenomenon all around the globe: the serious north and the easy-going south (at least in the Northern hemisphere)…just look at Italy, France, Germany. The same seems to apply in Vietnam. But, OK, I will need more time here.
I have done a lot of sight-walking today – sweating like a pig on the way to the slaughterhouse. And taken a lot of photos. And I also had the opportunity to talk to quite a few local people speaking some English “interviewing” them about their attitude towards their life and the “North”. Well, since Saigon is much more touristic than most of Vietnam and also has this Western history, there are much more people here who speak English than in Hanoi. And, no surprise, the Saigonese love the Hanoiese just as much (or little) as they love the Southerners.
Pictures or not now? Well, maybe tomorrow. This is not a travel guide.
Today I accomplished a few things:
1. I managed to change my room for one with a window! And to the backside, not the noisy main-street. Yippeeeh!
2. I outsmarted the helpful concierge desk at the hotel. After they could source me Havana Club rum only from far away and at ridiculous prices, I managed to find a shop in Saigon, on the internet, where they had it. I went there by taxi and we had long negotiations. In the end I still paid more than in Saigon – considering that I bought 6 bottles – but at 270.000 Dong for 0,75l, the litre came at 18.25 Leva!!! This is supposed to satisfy my “Cuba Libre” needs till November 25th when I go back to Europe: 4.5 litres for 19 days! That’s a meagre 236ml a day. OK, OK I will survive
3. I saw all of the main sights today. This will give me lee-way to explore the people-side tomorrow.
4. Most importantly, I got back into good physical shape (despite the lack of cigarettes). While I could have only bland rice porridge for breakfast this morning, my digestion system recovered during the day and my appetite came back. And I had various ice coffees during the day when I needed to “chill” (in the truest sense of the word) – and a handful of beers in the evening.
All in all: power to the people! I am back on track! And I’ll start tomorrow morning with a decent breakfast – and then play the day as it comes along!
The day after I will leave for the Mekong delta. Which is another story. As my plans did not turn out as expected. My young man from Hanoi cannot make it to join me, as his university just gave him a new schedule. So I had to organise the trip myself. Today I hired a driver and a guide for only three days. I think that will do the trick for me. I do not need to travel the Mekong by boat extensively. I have done that with my two German friends Achim and Volker in the previous years. I am mainly interested to see how the people in the delta live and how they make their living. Obviously, there is a lot of fish breeding, as the new kind of cheap fish “Pangas” (introduced to the West by “Metro”) is raised here. Of course, I will take some pictures for you from the floating markets and such shmere – but this is like taking pictures in the zoo.
OK, it has become quite late – the first time since Hanoi, maybe (11 pm now). And I am still only slightly above my daily limits of Havana Club (250ml instead of 236ml)
But maybe I am boring you shitless already? Good! Don’t read on then. Just a few real Saigon life pictures here now:
Lunch break in the city
I took a taxi to go to a garden restaurant in the suburbs recommended by my German guide book. Only to find that it was closed and they refurbished it for a new owner. So, I did not want to go back to my hotel but walked around and ended up in a “fancy” place for Vietnamese:
Everyone there was quite shocked when I entered! No English or whatever menu But, being caring (entrepreneurial!) Vietnamese, they knew how to deal with the first foreigner ever to enter their premises: they found someone with some English (I never found out if the guy worked for the restaurant or not )
I wanted something “typical Southern”. He recommended a salad – which I gladly accepted (considering my stomach situation).
Main ingredients: carrots and kohlrabi – and peanuts, seasoned with salt and vinegar and mint. A real delight with the dipping sauce of fish sauce and chillies…
The better local beer here is Saigon “export”, 5,000 Dong more expensive than the regular one. So, I lived “big time”. Spending 1.50 Leva for a beer, instead of 1,20 Leva! Rich Bulgarian that I am!
They caught me a taxi for going back to my hotel – and it was still quite busy on the streets (about 9 pm – Hanoi would be dead by now)…
There are about 5 million motorbikes in Saigon – and 500.000 cars. If you have not seen it, you would not believe the traffic. And it’s not just “traffic” here – it’s complete chaos!
After arriving at my hotel I decided to have a beer close by instead of retiring and writing this boring blog. Getting out of the taxi I noticed a “beauty parlour” across the street from my hotel, with a dozen of spectacular looking ladies. In my naivety I crossed the street and brought out may camera to share the scene with you. Oh, oh. There was fierce opposition from everyone who saw me. So, I put my camera back in my pocket
Instead, I ventured to a street side “zavedenie” where I had two beers and fell in love with the owners, three generations of women: grandmother, mother and daughter!
…in control of everything. I might have proposed on the spot to the granny on the left – if she and me would have been 30 years younger – because (with my my current knowledge) I could have rested assured that the “family business” would have been taken care of (Chinese roots (!), as you can see in their faces)…
I also watched in amazement that the town collects garbage in the evenings:
…not with trucks, but with individual “rolling bins”. That fill up within 5 minutes. I wonder what happens after that? Where they take them, or dump then. I will have to pay attention to this in the next few days as I really would like to find out.
OK, Havana Club levels now reaching code yellow (350ml gone) – I better pack it in. Probably I won’t be the first for breakfast tomorrow morning (starts only at 6:30 in lazy South Vietnam) but wtf. Despite having only rice-porridge for breakfast, as a professional hotel consultant I watched out of habit how they replenished and looked after the buffet breakfast. And it gave me the comfort that, at whatever time I will show up for breakfast tomorrow, I will get the full selection, freshly prepared! Not very common, even here in Vietnam. But very professional. I like that very much – and wish we could do the same thing in Bansko. But we are too f..ing stupid, primitive. Thinking about our own needs more than about clients’ desires. Not realising that ALL the money comes from the client.
But that’s another story in my life. That I am fortunately finished with. Because there is no hope. Enough said about this.
Finally, enough bla-bla…good night and so on…
Oh, enough now.