|We arrived to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly but still commonly known as Saigon, just in time to see the hustle and bustle of rush hour only days before Tet, their Lunar New Year and biggest holiday. We had prebooked our hotel and was checked in by a very nice Vietnamese lady who told us she too had family in the United States. She seemed very pleased to learn that we were American, something that Brad and I were both a bit apprehensive to admit considering our history here. At first glance though, you could never imagine the history that Vietnam has lived through. This is a communist country, one of the few remaining in the world. And yet from the drive from the airport to the hotel we must have passed more signs advertising all of the biggest global companies that exist, i.e. Ford, Kentucky Fried Chicken (some say the Colonel looks like Ho Chi Minh!), Samsung, LG, etc. This is most definitely a country on the move by the mighty dollar. Its an odd juxtaposition to see so many commercial activities going on and all the while their red flag with the yellow star and the hammer and sickle fly proudly. It seems anything but communist here, in fact it seems more capitalist than many places I've been. I do wonder if Castro has visited here and if he's given any thought to adopting a similar style of communism. I have no idea what sort of personal liberties are restricted (but I'm sure they are) still it seems that the general populous has the opportunity to get in the game. In fact, I think the Vietnamese are inherently good business people. But enough rhetoric from me. So later we walked around our neighborhood which is both a mix of backpackers and locals and took in the sights. There must be millions of millions of motorbikes in Vietnam. It is the most common form of transportation and you can see whole families, even up to 5!, on the back of a motorbike. Now during Tet we see people driving home with large Tet trees and cumquat trees on the front or back of their bikes. Its amazing how much can fit on a small motorbike! For dinner we enjoyed a steaming bowl of pho on the corner. They brought us all the accoutrements including bean sprouts, basil, limes, fish sauce, spices and more. We did our best and attacked it heartily with our chopsticks. The next day we set about exploring a little more of Saigon. The flower market near our hotel was doing a brisk business in the days before Tet. You could see families making all of their purchases to be ready. Then we went to the enclosed market that sold everything you could possibly need or not need. Here a few girls came straight up to Brad to touch his goatee. (Again, the goatee, highly popular!) The girls said in their halting English "its mine!" as they tried again to touch his face. I corrected them and told them it was mine explaining that Brad was my husband and the girls brazenly said that he was theirs. I'm surprised that the young women are so forward like that, unlike anywhere else we have been. They are very flirtatious and I wonder if its leftover from the GI days or are they always like that. In the market we bought ourselves a beautiful (but heavy) wooden box filled with chopsticks. I hope we'll be eating a lot of stir fry when we get home! For lunch we stopped at another pho shop that Bill Clinton had visited in 2000. Even so, it was filled with locals but we sat with a nice couple from Corsica, Antoinette and Michel. After lunch we went to visit the Reunification Palace or what used to house South Vietnam's government. It was built in the 60s and despite the tanks that flattened its front gate on April 30, 1975, the building remains just as it did in those days. The receiving rooms are fit for heads of state. On the roof sits an old helicopter. In the basement, which is also a bunker, there are strategy rooms filled with maps, phones, radios, and other equipment giving hints that from here the South's government ran their defenses. They also have an exhibit hall showing photographs of the American War (as they call it and probably more appropriately so) and historical achievements of the North's winning the war. There is also an English language video that informs the viewer of the history and atrocities that Vietnam has suffered both from the French and more recently the Americans. You definitely get the sense that you are listening to doctrine still it seems it presents itself pretty truthfully. Its hard to listen to without feeling personal guilt. And that would only get worse as we visited some more war memorials, entry to come. But to wind up our day we went for a drink on top of the Rex Hotel, the hotel where American generals had staked their hold. Its quite posh and has great views overlooking the park and skyline of Saigon. It was nice to sit back and relax with a couple of mojitos, yes, even in Vietnam. Here we raised our glasses to my Uncle Art. He served in the Vietnam War. I am most thankful that he survived such a terrible war and so Tio Art, we're carrying you in our hearts on this special and different journey through Vietnam. We hope you enjoy it!