Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling, vibrant metropolis with something for everyone. It is quite clean and though space is well used and people live cheek by jowl, there are plenty of beautifully tended green spaces and lots of outdoor gym locations. Our neighbourhood is clean and friendly and a rabbit warren of narrow streets, lanes and alleys. A very attractive canal runs through the area with nice green spaces and walking paths along it. Our host, Mr. Thong, lives in a tiny house, just off the canal.
|Thong, our congenial host, beside the canal|
|Off the street... down a narrow alley...|
|...then down a narrower alley...|
|....to Mr. Thong's house|
I am not standing in the doorway of house number 187. The number is the address of the alley that I am standing in. There will be many individual houses on the alley.
We are well away from the backpacker tourist centre around Pham Ngu Lao street, although we do go down for a visit.
|Street in the Backpacker Area|
We enjoy local coffee (always served with tea) and pho bo (local rice noodle soup).
|Pho bo for breakfast|
Within a two-minute walk of our house is a big southern US-style bar and barbecue place that provides several evening meals, not to mention some great cold specialty beers: Saigon Special and Phat Rooster!
|Super restaurant and bar right around the corner from Thong's house|
|Huge smoker for great BBQ|
Despite the fact that HCMC is like a beehive with people buzzing everywhere, there are lots of well-tended green spaces and parks.
|Enormous trees along some streets|
Traffic to us is a nightmare. There are three million people in the city and at least three motorbikes for every five people. It could be worse: imagine if everyone owned a car! We were warned about the challenges of crossing the street and we have been practicing since Phnom Penh. There is no point in waiting for a break in the traffic -- you would be only a skeleton, sitting on the curb! The strategy is to strike out into the traffic and keep moving steadily across the street. This requires nerves of steel and some considerable faith in the nature of humanity, but it works! The ten thousand scooters, small cars and the occasional bus WILL flow around you! Do not stop, change speed or direction; just keep forging ahead at a steady pace. You may be sweating and have shaky knees by the time you attain the relative safety of the far curb, but you WILL still be alive and unhurt!
|Just think about trying to cross these streets|
A friend of ours, told us she was standing on the curb trying to summon the courage to cross, when a little eight-year-old girl took her gently by the hand and walked her across the street.
|Sidewalk vendor having a little siesta|
The Reunification Palace was the home of successive Presidents of South Vietnam right up until the morning of April 30, 1975, when the first communist tank crashed through the gates and brought the regime to an end. It is fascinating to tour the ornate reception rooms for foreign dignitaries, the President's private residence and the bunkers in the basement. Henry Kissinger met with the South Vietnamese leadership in these rooms, in his efforts to negotiate an end to the war.
|The gates that the tank crashed through|
|One of many ornate meeting rooms and reception chambers|
|A UH-1 (Huey) helicopter was always available on the helipad for the president's use|
|The interior has a magnificent tiled floor and features Eiffel's signature wrought iron construction in the barrel-vaulted hall.|
|Notre Dame cathedral was built by the French between 1877 and 1883.|
There is much to see and do here, I think we might have enjoyed another day or two.