Ho Chi Minh City is often called the “Paris of the East” and I can see why. There is a definite feeling of richness (the downtown streets are lined with expensive stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton) and the main streets of Le Loi and Dong Khoi are very reminiscent of the Champs Elysees in Paris. It makes sense, since this city was once “ruled” by the French and the architecture (like the Post Office building) is completely french-inspired.
Ho Chi Minh City is also known as “Saigon,” but Vietnamese people don’t call it that. So, I am not going to call it that here. Seeing as how Ho Chi Minh City is so western feeling, I should have been right at home here. Instead, it really didn’t impress me that much. Maybe because I have been to Paris, or maybe because I feel in love with other areas in Vietnam first before arriving here. Whatever the reason, it was my least favourite place on the journey.
I did really enjoy visiting the Cai Be Floating Market (about three hours south from Ho Chi Minh City). It was a long trek, but fascinating to see the Mekong Delta and its people up close.
Ho Chi Minh City may not have been my favourite, but it was the most meaningful stop in Vietnam for me in another way. I was completely touched and emotional visiting the War Remnants Museum, and the sadness has lingered. Every visitor should take the time to see this museum. I can only call it a war atrocities photo essay, with floors of stories and photos about the horrors of the “American War” strictly from a Vietnamese point of view. It is incredibly difficult to view, and I found myself crying throughout the one-hour visit. Some may say it is one-sided, and certainly it is. But, being from Canada, I have heard of the “Vietnamese” war only through an american/western bias. Seeing this other side is important to find the true balance.
Seeing as this was the last stop in Vietnam before I travelled to Cambodia, I was completely gutted with a feeling I can only describe as wonder. How could so many Vietnamese people be so kind to me, and to others like me visiting their country? It hasn’t been that long since war, napalm and agent orange has decimated their land. How can any people move on from that? I am in awe of the spirit of this country and its hard working and gentle people. I cried on and off my first day in Cambodia. I just couldn’t shake it.
Feeling anything that deeply is a gift. It means something has touched you and changed you for good. I am so blessed.