Tale of two cities


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….

Ok, that’s as much as I will take from Dicken’s classic and move on to write about my trip to the two cities in Vietnam.

Well, there I was on this trip with a bunch of Singapore Business delegates, being treated more importantly than we should, visiting the twin boom towns of Vietnam, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There were the official and business-like affairs to attend to like sitting in a ‘Information Systems Convergence’ conference listening to mobile phone industry stats and benefits of the new satellite (and wondering why I am still there while the rest of the delegates have quietly dissapeared), filling up the second row seats in the ‘IT Show’ opening ceremony (to make sure that the VIPs have their audience), and visitting the Industrial Park. Of course there were the perks like free lunches and official dinners, but somehow I suspected that some of the money I paid went to the food budget. Fortunately too, interspaced between the events, we had time to do some sightseeing and bargain hunting.

There are indeed much similarities between the two cities. To name a few, the busy two-wheeler traffic, french styled buildings, opera houses, giant cathedrals, road side makan stalls, handicraft shops, art galleries, highland coffee chains, cyclos, motorcycle taxis, the summer heat (though Hanoi has its cold days) and the inflation, yeah, the amazing price hikes that gets many people all excited just recounting about the days(read: one year back) when they could stay in a particular hotel for half the current price and could eat a plate of Pho Bo off the road for VND5000! But moving from Hanoi to HCM, you can’t help but notice the wider raods, city parks, shopping malls, taller buildings, and discover a happening night life. So much that people likens the two to Beijing and Shanghai, maybe 15 years back. In defense of Hanoi, they have of course a wonderful lake right smack in the middle of the city, the old quarters that is bursting with character and bargains, and not forgetting the cooler temperature in winter-spring.

I came back from this trip with a heavier luggage, 5 kg heavier to be precise, partly contributed by 1 kg of Vietnamese Buon Ma Thuot and Mocca grounded coffee, 200g of green tea leaves and rosebuds, ceramic vases, a small painting and more carved wooden souvenirs.

Here are some shots of Hanoi…

Hanoi_Streets5 Hanoi_Pho24_PhoBo
Hanoi_OperaHouse 3 VCE_Expo4
VCE_Canon Photo Album 1 Hanoi_WestLakeTemple4
Hanoi_DingLangRestaurant2 Hanoi_HoanKiemLake
From top (L to R) : Old Quarters, Pho Bo at Pho24, Opera House, IT Show, World largest photo album, West Lake temple, All-girl band at Dinh Lang restaurant, Hoan Kiem Lake

And shots of HCM…

HCM_Benh Thanh nightmarket1 HCM_port2
HCM_Gloria Jeans 2 HCM_Opera House 2
HCM_LV HCM_Benh Thanh 3
HCM_Benh Thanh_Coffee Shop HCM_Crafts1
From top (L to R) : Benh Thanh night market, Saigon River, Gloria Jean’s, Opera House, Louis Vutton store, Benh Thanh market, ‘where I got my coffee’, ‘where I got my vases’

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