|HCMC from the pool at Le Meridien|
I stayed for two weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, my first glimpse of this country so many told me I would really enjoy. They were right; it is a fascinating place.
When I arrived in HCMC it was night and the ride in from the airport was exhilarating. There was color and light everywhere. The tall buildings sprouted up from all around. There was noise and crazy traffic. I stayed for two nights, insulated, at Le Meridien, a five-star hotel, leaning into the city from 9 flights up and out over the railing around the hotel pool. I was chomping at the bit to really get into HCMC.
|Phoenix 74 - my hotel|
I tried to count the restaurants, spas, hotels, travel agencies but each time I got distracted. However a close estimate would be at least 15 travel agencies, 25 spas, 35 restaurants and three convenience stores (2 of them Circle K) all in one city block. The activity on my street, as I came to think of it, was never-ending.
Easy entertainment involved ordering something from one of the five cafes across the street from my hotel, sitting at one of the tables that was right on the street and simply watching the world go by: backpacking Europeans – him with a blonde ponytail, her lagging behind with a determined grimace on her face (not all, but many); vendors hawking everything from sunglasses to spa services; the good-times tourists looking for the cheapest beer; older folks like me cautiously picking their way down the chaotic street; the old and crippled trying to make a living (including the 30ish-year old man that drug his way down the street, laying down on his side selling some kind of ticket The first time I saw him I cried. The second time I walked over and gave him some money).
|Just four of a street full of these narrow buildings|
Every day I watched as these people interacted, or more often avoided each other. I tried and succeeded sometimes to catch eyes, speak kindly and have conversations where I could.
I watched one very old frail woman trying to sell chewing gun unsuccessfully and finally sit down on a curb, exhausted. When I finished my meal, I walked over to her and bought a package of gum. Her tired old face lit up. My heart lit up. Cheap way to get a high.
|My street on Saturday night|
Saturday night was something else on my street. You could barely cross the 15-foot street for the motorbikes running up and down with youngsters out for a good time. I was there for two Saturday nights, watching one from a safe spot at the local street-side sports bar and the other from my third story window. Absolutely captivating.
For me, this is HCMC - rather than the old buildings, corporate towers, expensive malls and government buildings. This thriving, pounding slice of life was like a heartbeat. Seeing the street snooze for a couple of hours, from my secret
|Two lovely ladies from China. A good time!|
As hooked as I was on the energy, my body and soul was greatly relieved to fly away with the memories.