17 September 2011
I recently returned from a trip to Vietnam, where I was delivering a CSR workshop for the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce. It was my first visit and unfortunately, besides work, I had just a few hours to visit the museum in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) before going to the airport. It struck me as quite a poor and crowded city, very Western in some ways (clothes, etc., after French colonialism of 150 years) and very Eastern in others. Much like Cambodia, it is hot and humid, but a massive and bustling river flows through the city. They are not geared for tourism at all, which is quite refreshing actually (I guess Hanoi, which we looked at, would be different).
The museum was in a zoo garden and only opened at 1.30 pm, so bizarrely I found myself watching a very friendly giraffe, who likes to have his head scratched by visitors, and an orangutan with massive hands who seemed nearly human. The museum was interesting, but all pre-dated the war, which was a pity. My hotel – the beautiful colonial era Hotel Majestic – had a wonderful terrace overlooking the Saigon River (and the mad, hooting traffic alongside), although I did feel uncomfortable with all its opulence in the midst of a country where the average GDP per capita is approximately $1,000.