Near Pham Ngu Lao

Near Pham Ngu Lao

Grand opening, Vincom Center Shopping Mall

Grand opening, Vincom Center Shopping Mall

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Mui Ne (photo by Chase Pattillo)

Mui Ne (photo by Chase Pattillo)

Tam, War Remnants Museum

Tam, War Remnants Museum

Agent Orange victim, War Remnants Museum

Agent Orange victim, War Remnants Museum

Reunification Day

Reunification Day

Leo

Leo

Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City

April 2010 • Intended to skip Vietnam because of its dubious reputation among travelers, but the pull of family ties was too strong. Soon as I got off the bus from Cambodia, I took a metered taxi to Sarah and Boonma's swanky high-rise and the driver gouged me on the fare. When I wouldn't pay the add-on, he hijacked me to the other side of town and dumped me and my bag by the roadside. Welcome to HCMC. Hard to believe this is actually a communist country. There was a huge celebration on the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, but the ceremony and parade were closed off to the people. So the people went to the grand opening of a luxury shopping center instead, browsing the wares of Dior, Armani, Burberry, and Lady Americana Premium Bedding. No shortage of irony here. The big breakthrough came when I met Tam at the museum. She invited me to visit her English club, and from that point forward, I never had to sweat another pirate taxi driver.

Near Pham Ngu Lao

Near Pham Ngu Lao

Grand opening, Vincom Center Shopping Mall

Grand opening, Vincom Center Shopping Mall

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Mui Ne (photo by Chase Pattillo)

Mui Ne (photo by Chase Pattillo)

Tam, War Remnants Museum

Tam, War Remnants Museum

Agent Orange victim, War Remnants Museum

Agent Orange victim, War Remnants Museum

Reunification Day

Reunification Day

Leo