Saigon is an amazing place – cosmopolitan and very busy. Everyone drives around in motorbikes, which makes crossing the street a challenge. By the end of our time in Saigon we became experts at navigating ourselves around the motorbikes. I remain fascinated by their audacity on the road. You see all kinds of people on the bikes, old and young, couples, families sometimes with babies. Seatbelt laws are not a reality here.
And, there are so many young people in Saigon — we were told that 65% of Vietnamese are under 36. That means a great number of people in Vietnam were born after the war. I wonder how this plays out in the Vietnamese attitude toward Americans. Most of the people I’ve encountered have been very friendly toward us. But, I am sure there is some sort of historical memory of the war and its effects on the families of everyone in this country.
Before we left Saigon we have a great tour of the city. We made a couple of tourist stops – the Old Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral – built by the French – is quite beautiful. There is a giant statue of the Virgin in front of the church. While the official religion of Vietnam is Buddhism, there is a significant portion of the population that is Catholic. This was an interesting fact to me.
One of our final stops was the Presidential Palace, where in 1975 the North Vietnamese drove in with their tanks as a sign of victory over the south. We toured the palace and our very knowledgeable guide, “John,” told us about “Uncle Ho” (Ho Chin Min) and his love for all the Vietnamese.
After the tour, we stood around awkwardly taking a photo in front of the historic tank. It’s weird. I was not sure what to feel. It seems like a museum — but the implications of what happened in 1975 are so recent. It is curious how the history of a country so far from ours can have such a great impact on our own history.