Boundless Hospitality in Saigon

Our first stop was Saigon.

The former capital of South Vietnam is a bustling city. Although officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the famous guerilla leader, many Vietnamese call the city by its original name, and the names are practically interchangeable. (That's not anti-revolutionary blasphemy, really -- the airport code is SGN.)

Family Life in Saigon

The city is a fun place to be, but what made it truly superb was that we stayed with a wonderful family. Although there were five people living in Spartan conditions, they hosted us in their home free of charge and made us fantastic meals, and the children, who were slightly younger than us, spent countless hours showing us around.

One of the many delicious meals prepared by our host.

Sister and friend making dinner.

Mom making dinner

Eating dinner with friends.

Dalat Flower Festival

Our host took us all over southern Vietnam. We went to the nearby village of Cu Chi, where the Viet Cong dug a network of tunnels to smuggle fighters and weapons into the south during the war -- more of which I'll address in the entry on Hanoi. He also took us to Dalat, a curiously kitschy park that has become a major holiday spot for the emerging Vietnamese middle class. We weren't too keen on the tacky displays, but we were lucky enough to arrive there during the Dalat Flower Festival. The festival is usually held nearer to Christmas, but we were in luck -- 2005 was the first year that they pushed the festival a week forward, meaning we got to enjoy some fantastic floral displays. Click the thumbs below for fullsize images.

My impressions from the first few days in Saigon were overwhelmingly positive.

Fishing along the Mekong.

Chinese chess.

Vietnamese children fascinated by the digital camera.

On to the next entry...

c. 2006