April 16, 2012


Notre-Dame Basilica Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City. Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880.

Statue of Ho Chi Minh in front of city hall. He was a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who was prime minister (1945–1955) and president (1945–1969).

Ho Chi Minh City's central post office was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina. In 1886, it was built based upon the design specifications of renowned French architect Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Reunification Palace, the site of the end of the Vietnam war during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

Chinese-made tank used in the war.

Vietnam is a communist country that has also embraced fast-food capitalism.

Howard Whidden on his return visit to Vietnam last month.

Click on photos to enlarge

As promised, here is part 2 of our Vietnam travel story. Vivian and I were there very briefly in 2006 as a stop on a whirlwind tour of Asia. The visit was long enough to see the former Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and take some photos, but not long enough to get a real sense of the country.

My friend Howard Whidden, also originally from Levittown NY, is a Vietnam veteran who recently spent about two weeks traveling around the country. He is still fairly fluent in the language, having been trained while in the service. Here is his take on the Vietnam of his military days nearly 40 years ago as compared to now.


The genuine warmth of the people, their unparalleled cuisine, the outstanding beauty of the country, the poverty and work ethic of the people, their resourcefulness, the corruption of government officials, the motorbike being the main form of transportation, both for people and goods; their outrageous but uniquely Vietnamese way of driving; their rainy seasons, and the heat and humidity of Saigon.


The tremendous growth in population and their cities, with skyscrapers and modern highways; paved roads everywhere; the elimination of the war's vestiges (except in their war museums); propaganda posters, flags and the hammer and sickle EVERYWHERE; the brainwashing/indoctrination of schoolchildren; the unbelievable pandemonium of their city traffic; their successful attempts to improve the attractiveness of churches, temples and historic sites.

Photos by Frank Barning, except the shot of Howard Whidden

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