I feel sorry for Vietnamese men!

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, November 23, 2012

When the French ruled Vietnam, it split the country into three administrative regions.  Saigon, which was the administrative capital for the southern region, was also the main administrative capital for all of Vietnam, which is why it has the most French influence than any other part of the country.  It's quite easy to tell which part of the city was laid out by the French, as the streets are wide and tree-lined, very European.  Surprisingly, the traffic in this area does follow the rules of the road, perhaps because there is enough room for them to get through rather than fight for what little space there is on the narrow streets outside this area, or maybe it's because this area has a lot of police on the streets.  In addition to the beautiful colonial buildings and homes, the most exclusive clothing and jewelry boutiques and hotels can also be found concentrated in this area.  If they can be found in Paris and New York, then they can be found in Ho Chi Minh City.  Like Hanoi, you would never know that either city was part of a communist country, where a classless society is supposed to be one of its basic tenants.  Once you leave the small enclave, you're back in Vietnam proper.  

I set out on foot to visit the sites that are listed in the National Geographic guidebook on Vietnam.  The tour for HCMC concentrates on Dong Khoi,one of the main streets of HCMC, which is heavily influenced by the French and American roles in the country.  First up is the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was built by the French, using stones imported from France.  The post office was designed by the same firm that designed the Eiffel Tower.  Along the walk is a stop at 22 Ly Tu Trong, which was the site of one of the most famous pictures from the war: A helicopter sitting atop a residential building (housing many CIA agents), with people trying to climb onboard.  There's the Opera House built by the French, a number of hotels that served as bureaus for the news medias during the war or housed military personnel.  There are also hotels that were built by the French in the early 1920s that are still luxurious today.  The day ends with a visit to the former presidential palace for the presidents of South Vietnam, which is now known as the Reunfication Palace, where the South Vietnamese government surrendered to the north, and all documents were signed here.  The building isn't so much a presidential palace, but a glorified military outpost, as most of the rooms were built for military purposes and at least half of the building served as a bunker...that should have served as a foreshadowing of the country's future!  We do learn that the palace was bombed by a double agent.  When he was flying with his South Vietnamese squadron, he veered off course, dropped a few bombs on the palace, no one was hurt, then flew off to the north, where he was considered a hero.  As a footnote, he retired as a Vice President of Vietnam Airlines.   

One thing I can't do is spend time at the main marketplace that is popular with locals for everyday goods and tourists for souvenirs.  I've been to these types of marketplaces all over the world.  Housed in a huge building, they are crammed full with vendors selling basically the same thing, with very little space for the aisles.  It's difficult to tell when one vendor's space ends, and the next one begins, as they can't be more than 6 feet wide at most and are crammed together.  When I enter, I am quickly grabbed by the arm by a vendor and told to buy something from her.  I yank my arm back, only to have my other arm grabbed by another vendor and told I had to buy something from her.  I tell them to let me go and not to touch me, only to have the next vendors do the same thing when my arms become available.  After about four grabbings, I leave and don't return.  I don't care how good the prices might be, or what they have to offer, I'm not paying to be accosted.  

Another thing I did today was visit the optical retail shop of Venus' father; I work with Venus.  When she learned that I was going to HCMC, she provided me with a packet full of helpful information, supplemented with emails on specific topics.  She provided me with the address of her father's business, and said I should stop by for a visit.  Her father had just left shortly before I arrived, so I missed meeting him, but I did meet one of the employees, who is also family, and we had a nice conversation.          

On another note, from the time I entered Vietnam, it hasn't been unusual to see the women yelling at the top of their lungs at their men; hurling terrible, hurtful insults at them; hitting them with their fists; slapping them; throwing rocks and any other objects they can lay their hands on at them; or hitting them with big sticks, among other things.  I don't know why these women would be so mean, I'm sure the men did nothing to deserve such behavior.  (I wonder what the female equivalent of misogynist is.)  The tradition carries on in Ho Chi Minh City, as I was sitting at a restaurant, only to have a woman attack her man right in front of us, but out on the street, then make their way into the restaurant.  I've also come to the conclusion that arguing is the national sport of the country, that's all the locals seem to do with one another, and they seem to argue about anything just for the sake of arguing.
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