Every city has its colours, character and smell. Ho Chi Minh City reminds me of the colours yellow and green. Those buildings with French flavour — with yellow walls and green windows — and that greenness of the trees and parks in the midst of the buzzing city makes me smile. Those millions who move on mobikes or those cars pleasantly marginalised in a sea of motorcycles and bicycles gave some sense about the middle class character of the charming Saigon, now named after Ho Chi Minh, the national hero of Vietnam. I could smell sweat on the pavements, petrol in the air and the fragrance of morning flowers in the park. Spas are sprouting in new neon-lit nights. Pimps politely promise the new pleasures to potential customers in the shadow of high-rise buildings as the night gets settled in. This is a city with a history — of trade, colours, cultures, bold and beautiful people, war, dreams and promises.
I went to the Durga temple near the Chinese street. The Hindu culture in South Vietnam goes much deeper than the migration from South India during the colonial period. The Cham culture — that influenced parts of the present day Southern Vietnam and parts of Cambodia — evolved out of the Hindu religious practice and beliefs. Mosques in the city smell of the history of trade — the Muslim traders from different parts of India and Arabia came to these lands in search of spices and spouses. The Chinese — who left the city after the liberation in 1976, are back in full business. Ho-Chi Minh City is the cosmopolitan Saigon transformed into a busy city, a city that began to look more like Bangkok and charms of old Saigon are fast fading away. This city of six million people in many ways symbolise the new Vietnam — confident, relatively more open, busy and with the fading of an old world.
The story of Vietnam is the story of survival, sustainability and renewal. It is such a story that makes most of the Vietnamese dignified, confident and proud of their country.