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I noticed that the only symbol of American culture in Saigon is a single KFC outlet.French culture though, is deeply ingrained; in the widespread consumption of baguettes and coffee (ca phe in Vietnamese), in the French colonial architecture and the elegance of the women. When he was young, it confirmed his status as a person of higher education. Now aged sixty-five, Minh drives a cyclo, a three-wheeled, pedal-powered rickshaw with a bucket-seat at the front, from which passengers are given a point-blank view of Saigon's traffic.Ho Chi Minh City is called Saigon by all but officialdom.Its war record as US Forces HQ is part of its marketability in a Vietnam committed to promoting tourism, and the war is a significant player in Saigon's tourism effort.
And a reminder, in the imperious manner of the immigration officials, that there's a no-nonsense communist government in power.But with his knowledge of Saigon's history, he can dramatise the colonial divisions that created the two extremes.Dong Khoi, with wide boulevards, leafy parks and embassies, where The Quiet American's Continental hotel overlooks the opera house, is the fashionable former French quarter of the city.Street life is relentlessly hectic, overflowing with human activity.
Food is constantly being prepared and consumed and there seems to be no shortage of anything.There's a War Remnants museum, with its aircraft and tanks, videos and photographs, shell casings and dog tags.