Ho Chi Minh City

Posted on December 24, 2012

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Vietnam TaxisVietnam is catching up.  They’re taking on China in low-cost manufacturing and have clear ambitions of their own.

But there’s still a charm about Saigon that has already gone from much of urban China – starting with an airport that feels as though the troops have only just moved out.  Everywhere you turn buildings that would have been knocked down in Beijing have been given new leases of life, from the Reunification Palace to the grandeur of the Park Hyatt.

There is little concrete here, even less neon.

Power is intermittent – generators threaten to burst into life every day – and so do the clouds.Vietnamese Coffee

Despite the nod in a western direction of the i-Pho T-shirts and acceptance of USD, McDonald’s is refreshingly absent.

It’s a massive coffee culture (I’m reliably informed that Vietnam is the second biggest exporter of coffee on the planet) but they fry the beans instead of roasting them, then add condensed milk and, if you ask for it, rum.  Very nice indeed, especially whilst sitting out the afternoon shower.

When I got there on Friday, the owner of one bar, Bernie’s, was trying out a brand new idea on his customers – wasabi peas.  Having tried, and rejected, several types of vessel to serve them in, he sent a rather large bowl of them over to me as part of his experiment, “Do you think they go with beer?” he asked.

It was clear that nobody else had ever seen, or tried them before.  I was more than grateful to help out.

Ho Chi Mihn TrafficIn return, when a customer asked for a cup of tea, I spent five minutes explaining to the owner about the difference between the boxes of Twinings English Breakfast and Early Grey which had suddenly appeared from beneath the bar!

I have no idea if they added condensed milk in the end, but it wouldn’t surprise me…it would certainly add to the charm.

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