Cacooned by Ho Chi Minh City

I’ve been here for five and a half days now, and see no sign of leaving yet. I’m staying in a really good guesthouse, a bit away from the main backpacker area, and friendly and hospitable.

My long visit is partly because you have to chill out during the Tet festival. That’s the Lunar New Year, which is the same as the Chinese New Year. For three days people go back to visit their family, so the city is relatively deserted, as recent migration patterns mean that more people in the city have families in the country than vice versa.

There seem to be endless things to do here. Lots of interesting modern history stuff, such as meseums to do with the Vietnam war, and day trips to visit the tunnels that the Viet Cong hid in. And then loads of interesting pagodas, from the strange religions that the Vietnamese have, mixtures of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Animism and Ancestor Worship. In the Mekong river delta people regularly seem to start new religions, which often have had their own private army at periods over the last century.

And that’s without all the stuff that’s closed for Tet! Like shopping centres, some of the museums, and the french patesseries.

The city is seem seemingly infinite. There’s a central bit where most stuff is, and you can soon get to know it. But if you leave from there, it goes on forever. Endless long wide streets with tall trees, and infinite infinite local shops, selling who knows what, as they’re all closed for Tet. I climbed a curious pagoda today that had 7 or 8 levels, with a different statue on each one. From the top the city stretched to the horizon, with no real break or distinguishing feature.

This morning I accidentally ended up at a theme park crossed with a garden centre and water park on the outskirts of town. It was next to a pagoda that I was trying to visit. Hoardes of holiday happy Vietnamese, going on rides, having picnics. In Europe at such places, we might have tropical plant greenhouses, so of course here there was an air-conditioned glass building, full of exotic temperate climate plants.

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