Simply determining what you should be calling the city alludes to its history. Both Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon are both commonly used in the city itself (one being the official and written name, with the later used in spoken language), but it can be a politically sensitive issue amongst the Vietnamese. Those living in the south for example are more likely to use Saigon, than those from the north. As a foreigner however you’ll be forgiven for using either.
Tourists visiting HCMC spend a good deal learning about the past – relics of the American War (what we refer to as the Vietnam War) are abundant, from museums and memorials, to the Chu Chi tunnels and those left crippled by agent orange. Yet as far as HCMC is concerned its history. This is a modern city that has developed rapidly; full of energy it is the economic heart of Vietnam. When in Vietnam you should not ignore the history surrounding the American war but you should remember that this was a relatively short period in the countries long and rich history. There is so much more to the country.
Why don’t the Vietnamese hate Americans? You learn that America pretty much committed every war crime in the book. It may now advocate against the use of chemical weapons, but Agent Orange (which was dumped all over Vietnam) is probably the most horrendous substance known to man. The War Remnants museum is a must see. It was very informative and well presented, far better than the history museum we visited in Hanoi. Unlike our trip to the Chu Chi tunnels, it wasn’t all anti-American but specifically anti-US government. In fact there is an exhibit on the global protests against the Vietnam war, including the ones which took place in the US. I think shedding the hatred has probably played an important part in the country moving forward. Much later on our trip we found out why the Vietnamese don’t hate the Americans, unlike how you can find so much anti-Japanese sentiment in China. We were told that this is because Uncle Ho told them not to. He said don’t hate the American people, look how bad their government is that it forced its own people to fight and die in this war. We even saw an American navel ship moored off the coast in Nha Trang, though perhaps says more about current Vietnamese-Chinese relations than it does about Vietnamese-US relations.
We learnt so much throughout our trip in Vietnam but what struck me the most was the resilience of the Vietnamese. They more than just bounced back from being a war torn nation, they excelled. It can be hard to reconcile the pictures of Vietnam as it was during the war, and the vibrant HCMC that you can see now.