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by nate on November 3, 2009

One of many malls in Saigon.

One of many malls in Saigon.

We came to Saigon having heard many warnings that this bustling city would be overwhelming, with 6 million motorbikes zooming around the streets, and a pulse that far out-paces the rest of Vietnam. We had these warnings, and when we arrived, we loved it.

Coming from NYC, this city felt like home. ATMs at every corner (instead of 2 or 3 per city), coffee shops, tall buildings, businessmen in suits, malls with the latest gadgets, and fashion galore. In a nutshell, a consumerist’s utopia. Somehow, all the books and friends we met along the way, forgot to mention that a Westerner would feel at home in this city, with plenty of places to exchange your money for goods and services.

Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City are one in the same. We found that folks in the South still refer to the city as Saigon, it’s name before the North changed it in 1976.

It appears that Saigon is gearing up to be fully modernized by 2012 (ish) with a subway, huge renovations in the districts, and many roads being upgraded to western standards. My jaw dropped when I fully realized the destination of Ho Chi Minh City: it is becoming the capitalist, free-market city it has always wanted to be.

Of course, Hanoi is still the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but it appears to have quietly turned its head, allowing Saigon to become the country’s business capital, securing one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Saigon continues to grow at a staggering speed, with Northerners traveling south to take advantage of the opportunities.

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