Mar 15, 2015

Visiting Saigon AKA Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has been the official name since the fall of Saigon in 1975 but both are in use. Once again being a loyal customer paid off.  We had a free night with InterContinental Hotels due to using their credit card and being a member of their IHG Rewards Club so we booked a room at the InterContinental Asiana Residence. We didn’t realize just how lucky we were until we saw our accommodation. We had two huge rooms.  One was a combination kitchen, dining room, and living room with surround-sound TV.
 The bedroom was just as big with a huge bathroom with a tub and shower.  I was really excited to see the washer/dryer combination.  The washer worked great but I could not – even after reading the instructions – get it to dry the clothes.  The dry cycle included a rinse cycle which was counterproductive so after a few tries I gave up on the drying part.  Maybe that is why there was a drying rack.  The rooms had a large balcony and I noticed other people also had drying racks on their balcony.  

On the first level of the building there were several stores and eateries.  We bought groceries at the mini mart and enjoyed eating some meals in our room.  Breakfast was included and it was excellent.  

The InterContinental Hotel is connected to the Residence so we had easy access to all their services, too.  We ate lunch at
their Market 39 where they had a pancake station.  Vietnamese pancakes are tasty and fun to eat. We asked Chef Josh, the executive chef, to share the recipe and explain how they were made. He was happy to do so. The pancakes are more like an egg crepe with prawns and other goodies in it.  To eat just pull off a hunk, wrap it in lettuce, add some other greens and dip in pickled carrots. Yummy!

We have been to Saigon a couple of times. The most frequent side trip includes the famed Chu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the “American War” as it is called in Vietnam, and
the colorful Cao Dai Temple. We considered visiting again this year but didn’t have time so we just walked to a nearby church and post office. My all-time favorite soup is Vietnamese pho.  The Vietnamese eat it several times a day. There are many street stalls that sell it and other food. There is always something interesting to see on a walkabout in Saigon. We stopped to listen to a school group marching and playing the drums. 

We did visit the War Remnant Museum which has some displays and videos that are hard to deal with.  Especially difficult was the section showing birth defects caused by Agent Orange.   It is hard to put a pretty face on war.

I have never forgotten what our guide at the Chu Chi Tunnels told us years ago. He was born in the tunnels, when John asked about the “American” War and his perception of Americans, he replied, “That was then, this is now, let’s go forward.” From my perspective it was good advice and words to live by. More than half of the population was born after the war and the American War was preceded by 100 years of French colonialism and before the French 1000 years of Chinese domination. Now they govern themselves.