Saigon…Tale of Two Cities

With well over a million air miles under my belt, this would be my first time flying Eva Airlines, part of the Star Alliance Family.  5 of us opted for Premium Economy which was an excellent choice.  Their Premium Economy  was actually better than some Business Class routes I’ve flown in the past. There were only 7 rows in our special, private cabin, the food was outstanding and the service top notch.  The drinkers loved the complimentary beverage service.  One said, “whenever we hit a little turbulence, I just pushed my call button for another shot of VSOP.” LOL.  They had a wide range of spirits from vodka, champagne, wines,  Baileys, Plum Liqueur, and including cocktails such as Mojitos for those that like to imbibe.  Even though I no longer for 4 years now, Prior to that, I actually stopped during flights about 15 years ago when I realized it heavily attributes to jet lag (something I no longer experience). With my schedule, I couldn’t handle that.  Bottom line, this was one of my best flown experiences. If I do Vietnam again, you can bet I will fly no other than EVA AIR.

We changed planes in Taipei, Taiwan — a lovely airport with tons of designer shops. Our layover was not long at all.   Upon  landing in Saigon, we had to go to the Landing Desk to get our Visas (the cheapest way—$25) before standing in the Immigration line. I swear the Landing Desk area looked like a county general hospital emergency room along with folks trying to get public assistance at the welfare office.   At any rate we all finally got our visas and I hurried out to ensure our guide was still there.  Soon we were on our way to our 5 Star HOTEL LE MERIDIEN SAIGON.  In a word…. It’s fabulous!   As the group was getting checked in with our guide, I had to hurry for my appointment with the tailor at CaoMinh.  Once I finally arrived at their tightly secured showroom, the customer Service was wonderful. They’ve been in business since 1948 so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with them. I had been in communication with them for 2 weeks so they were expecting me.   I can expect tailor made shirts in 2 days, if I’m lucky; maybe tomorrow.

We were picked up by our driver at 6:30 for dinner reservations at Hoa Tuc Saigon.  I’ve been there several times so I was really looking forward to it.  In 2013 Robbie Bell and I did the Saigon Cooking School there in the courtyard where we learned to prepare Pho noodle soup and several other dishes. Last year Cousin Darryl and Alisha fell in love with this place.     Hoa Tuc translates to “poppy flower”  the building is over 100 years old and back in the day it was an opium factory.  Hoa Tuc’s art-nouveau cuisine certainly satisfied this foodie as well as those dining with us tonight.

Even though the official name is HO CHI MINH CITY (HCMC) many locals and past residents still prefer SAIGON.  The ladies at the nail shops say, “We didnt like Ho Chi Minh, he wasn’t a nice man, we prefer Saigon”.  The city buses still show “Saigon”. the river our hotel overlooks is still Saigon River, and the airport code is still SGN. The communist North won the war and changed the name to Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the prime minister, a revolutionary leader. The name change wasn’t voluntary on the part of those living in the South. It was a statement of the North’s success and many Saigonese locals fled the country. Nowadays the two names are not used to make any kind of political statement but an alternate way of referring to the city

It’s been quite a full day and I should be asleep because in 5 hrs we will be leaving for a full day of touring and sightseeing.  Good day, good night….wherever you may be.

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