Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (October 18-21, 2008)

Ho Chi Minh City, often still called Saigon by the locals, is Vietnam's main port and largest city. It's a place that assaults the senses: the relentless swirl of traffic (on the road AND sidewalks), the pungent smell of street food (and waste) and the constant reminders of the bloody past are at first overwhelming. But the sheer energy of the city, the impressive French colonial architecture, the quiet residential alleys and the large peaceful parks soon captivate visitors. After a few days exploring Saigon, it's easy to see why the city is so crowded.
Notre Dame Cathedral was constructed in the late 19th century, using bricks and stained glass imported from France
Bonsai trees in the downtown botanical garden and zoo; the garden offers a welcome escape from the city's chaotic streets
The ornate central post office, next door to Notre Dame Cathedral
Good luck statues and bills for sale at Saigon's bustling Ben Thanh market
The People's Committee Building, constructed in the early 20th century, is one of the city's major landmarksThe Caravelle Hotel was once a popular hangout for journalists during the war; today it's one of the city's finest hotels...with a delicious and unbelievably inexpensive afternoon tea

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