This is a vibrant, bustling city and very different from others we visited. Most business was conducted in an open-air setting and there were street vendors selling everything from soup to clothing to haircuts. Some of the cargo loaded on small vehicles was eye-boggling. We passed by the old Presidential Palace (now a reunification museum) and the old American Embassy (now the American Consulate). Pollution was not bad – not in the same league as China. There are a few nice new hotels -- Sheraton and Renaissance. Unlike China we saw no beggars here – but plenty of pesky street vendors selling post cards, fans, “Polo” shirts, coolie hats and mandarin outfits.
After our two-hour ride in the blazing sun we were hot and tired. We went to the Rex Hotel and had lunch on their rooftop restaurant. Nice breeze, good service, good view and decent food. Brian had a local beer “333” or “Ba Ba Ba”.
The port lecturer on board our ship told us that while Vietnam is communist, it has a market-driven economy. Families during the war were encouraged to have lots of kids, but now the target number is 2 per family --- and if a gov’t employee has 3, they can be fired. Early on after the war they tried collectivization of everything. As a result, no one was willing to work and they did not have enough food to feed their people. The first year after they went back to people owning their own property, they had a rice surplus and are now Asia’s number 3 rice exporter. The local currency is the Dong and the exchange rate is 17,000 to one US dollar. He advised us not to exchange currency unless we had a wheel barrow since US dollar is widely accepted. Most street vendors sell stuff for “one dollah”. Anything more than that is negotiable.
Next stop Cambodia