Vietnam – Day 3

During my second full day in Vietnam I spent more time exploring Ho Chi Minh City. Despite the fact that it’s a massive, sprawling place, you can see nearly all of the things that are worth seeing in just a couple of days—it’s not New York.

The main tourist district is centered on the Continental Hotel along with two other upscale hotels that also appear to be the tallest buildings in the city, the Sheraton and Caravelle. It features a surprisingly Western style mall, numerous restaurants, and upscale Gucci and Cartier boutiques catering to the Vietnamese nouveau riche and wealthy traveler/ex-pat sets. Nearby is another, slightly rougher tourist area dominated by bars and other forms of nightlife—it’s also where I was solicited for both marijuana and prostitution.

More pho.

Near the hotels Noah and I stumbled on a store that specializes in old propaganda posters. Although the proprietor claimed that they were originals, I suspect that they were all just high quality fakes based on original posters. The posters all centered on three basic themes: paying homage to glorious uncle Ho, encouraging the peasants to grow more soybeans/fish/rice for a prosperous fatherland, or take up arms to defend against the American aggressor. The artwork itself was great: healthy young women with babies strapped to their backs and rifles in their hands, farmers toiling in the rice paddies, and Richard Nixon’s face superimposed on bombs falling onto a village.

As good as the artwork was, I liked the poorly translated captions the best. This one, from a poster imploring people to produce more salt, was my personal favorite:

We Must Increase the Production of Salt to Satisfy the People’s Needs. Mobilize the Workers and Collective Farmers to

Use Sun and the Salt Fields Effectively and to Produce in an Organized Fashion with Principle and for High Production.

Despite my distinctly non-communist political leanings, I loved them all and bought two full sized “original” posters and three other much smaller ones. I recall reading somewhere that Grover Norquist has a bust of Lenin in his home, and I once met someone that worked at a Libertarian leaning organization in DC who had several original pieces of Russian propaganda in his office, so perhaps it’s not unusual for libertarian types to fetishize communist propaganda. Libertarians lack good propaganda, after all.

From a Buddhist pagoda.

This doesn't look safe to me.

I soon realized that one hour in Saigon was the equivalent of at least three hours elsewhere. By 1 pm it felt like 4 pm, and I was ready to go to sleep by dinnertime. I think this had to do with some combination of the craziness on the streets, constant heat, and being bombarded with people trying to sell you things. The basic pattern for the rest of my trip was to spend a few hours outside before seeking refuge in a café with a cold drink for at least an hour.

More of the pagoda.

We got dinner one night at Xu, one of the best restaurants in the city. The most expensive entre was still only $25, and most were much less.


One Response to “Vietnam – Day 3”

  1. lars shalom Says:

    hope you and the guys are ok, any more posts coming??

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