Ho Chi Minh, formerly Saigon, is the most extraordinary city, a complete mishmash of architecture ranging from traditional to modern, crammed with people, noisy, dirty and smelly. But there are unexpected treasures too, including the parks, the beautifully preserved Post Office with its stunning tiled floor, and the Thien Hau Temple.
I love the ornate decoration and unexpected splashes of colour in the temple.
‘We won’t mention the War,’ our guide told us. ‘We don’t want to make you sad.’ But of course everywhere you look there are reminders of the Vietnam War, including the Rex Hotel, where the press would gather for their daily briefing.
Ho Chi Minh himself.
The indoor markets are worth visiting for the experience, although not if you’re claustrophobic, because they’re like a maze. The wholesale market sells everything you can imagine, in vast quantities (I’ve never seen so many hats).
There are huge contrasts between rich and poor, with street vendors standing around the corner from Gucci.
I love the smile on this old lady’s face.
(And I’m guessing these mannequins outside one mall are supposed to be the Supremes).
There are lots of new, unfinished buildings because the recession meant the promised economic boom didn’t happen. Apartments and houses are ridiculously expensive, and our guide told us that if he wants to travel to Australia, the US or Europe, he has to make sure he has savings, otherwise he’s not allowed to leave.
Most of the population, it seems, gets around on motorbike (and they take everything on those bikes, from slices of cake to chickens), and it’s not unusual to see whole families riding the same bike. Children under six don’t have to wear helmets (because of the risk of strangulation, go figure) and you frequently see babies on bikes. 31 people are killed in road accidents a day in Ho Chi Minh, which made being driven on one of these contraptions…