before you go … SAIGON

The World Rebooted®
Saigon, Republic of Vietnam

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) sits on the Saigon River (“Song Sai-gon”) forty miles west Vung Tau and the South China Sea. It is Vietnam’s largest city.

Saigon is easily reached by a modern airport, which has, like the country itself, rapidly been redeveloping since the Communist government did a U-Turn in 1986 and instituted a free market economy. From 40-million population at the end of the Vietnam War (1963-1975) the population now numbers an estimated 90-milllion, 10-percent of which lives in Saigon alone. This is a young country for a reason: Four-million Vietnamese were killed during the war; there were not a lot of old Vietnamese left.

Today the rich French architecture are fast being replaced. Hurry if you want to see the Saigon of the Vietnam (“American War”) War era.

Don’t miss: the Ben Thanh central market, which is still as alive and vibrant as ever. Walk the old Tudo Street down to the Saigon River. This was the hottest nightspot in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Across the street from the Continental Hotel search for where the “Five O’clock Follies” were held each day (the daily military briefing for the press that the press rarely believed). The American Embassy once nearby, site of heavy fighting at Tet in January 1968, is long gone and long since replaced elsewhere.

Visit the Reunification Palace, once the Presidential Palace. It is a period piece saved by the victorious Communists at the end of the War. Today the Palace remains exactly as it was the day Saigon fell (April 30, 1975), down to the yellowing military maps hanging on walls in the underground bunkers. It is all open to the public and tours are available in all major languages of the world.

Take a hike around: Behind the Palace take a short walk down a side street to Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were murdered in a non-descript seedy second story apartment. The resulting chaos, (deposing of Diem was sanctioned in November 1963 by President John Kennedy) may have assured the Communist victory 12 years later. Mr. Kennedy, like Mr. Diem, did not live out the month of November 1963.

Have a drink on the top of the Rex Hotel, once a hangout for US military officers, later a lair for the foreign correspondents, and today a popular tourist stop. Visit Cholon, the Chinese enclave of the city. And don’t worry about being killed crossing the streets – just go. It may look like all those motorcycles will run you down but they won’t.

Not missing from Ho Chi Minh City today are Americans. They’re back and they are everywhere. The Vietnamese, perhaps paradoxically, love Americans and they really, really love Obama.

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