The transfer from “democratic” Cambodia into communist Vietnam is one of the largest culture shocks we have experienced on the trip so far.
Lack of western brands, poverty stricken people, beat up old cars, an agricultural dominated economy…are all left behind to be replaced by bright lights, skyscrapers, designer shops, expensive cars and Starbucks.
On first impressions Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon does a pretty good impersonation of a typical capitalism based city. It’s the massive bustling crazy metropolis that we expected, but didn’t quite get, from Bangkok. We love it.
Crossing the road here is something that you have to see to believe. Traffic, and in particular mopeds, provide a constant stream of motorised movement with few junctions subject to any formal control.
With no breaks in the flow you are left doing what the locals do. Just walk out into the traffic. Very slowly. And then the magic happens, as the drivers just avoid you, step by step you make your way to the other side. I found it easier if I didn’t look, because if you do the years of Tufty Club training starts to kick in and you can find yourself trapped in the middle of the road with traffic streaming by on both sides and nobody takes pity on you to let you cross.
A wonderful relaxed day spent walking round the city (taking some refuge from the heat in lovely air-conditioned shops and cafés), getting a feel for the place, visiting the Opera House for a very arty performance involving a lot of bamboo poles, and finally enjoying a drink or two in a rooftop bar on top of one of the many glamorous hotels watching the neon light the sky.