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  • Day5

    Ho Chi Minh City

    October 14, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌧 84 °F

    Augie and I checked into the Airbnb and chilled for most of the weekend. We hit a few tourist spots and took a few walks around the busy city. One tourist destination allows one to go down into the caves that the Viet Cong used to undermine American efforts. My brother Will shared that when we bombed near the caves they would backfill the craters to get rid of the dirt dug from the tunnels. Vietnam has been a Socialist country since the end of-what they refer to as-the American War. It is sort of hard to tell this is a communist country as there seems to be more unfettered free marketeering going on than back in the States. Everyone has businesses and side businesses. The country has followed China's model of late.

    These days 8.5 million people live in Saigon. Like Amsterdam, they each own at least one two wheeled vehicle. The difference here is that they are scooters rather than bicycles. Scooters are ubiquitous. They have their own lanes and go by their own rules. Riders are frequently up on the sidewalks to gain the advantage of being at the head of the pack at a traffic light. At an intersection scooters take their left turns from the far right lane; cutting in front of the line of cars, trucks, and busses to get where they need to be. Crossing the street as a pedestrian is an act of faith. Somehow a person steps into swirling traffic and manages to make it to the other side. It all just sort of works. Pretty wild.

    Here is a video of the maelstrom that we took from the second floor of a burger joint.
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/tpsycCt3N7iLkBN48
    Here's a sped up version:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/NGasUFTu3kMe6tPq7

    We hit quite a few restaurants and cafés during our stay. The coffee culture is amazing. Cappuccinos everywhere. Vietnam became a major producer back in the late 80s. That's part of what led to a worldwide coffee glut that undermined the Central American economies in the 90s. Farmers were left with little choice than to pack it up and head to the States for work. Did you all know that one of the biggest 'build that wall' proponents, Representative Devin Nunes, employs mostly undocumented workers in his family's dairy businesses? Go figure. We even visited a couple of brewpubs. East Meets West had pretty good food and an excellent Belgian blond ale. We noted that the same meal and brew would have been three times the price in San Francisco or Amsterdam.

    Augie was able to connect with his friend Minh from his college days. Minh now works in an architecture firm in the city. They went out for a traditional noodle soup. Minh's family also owns and runs a stall at the central Ben Thanh market.

    Saturday we visited the motorbike rental agency to set up our rides for the next month. They are semiautomatic Hondas with racks to carry our gear. When we arrived they brought down two brand new bikes. We pick them up first thing Monday morning. Don't think they'll look this nice at the end of our 1200 mile tour...
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