Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

No, not the famed mountain and river routes used by the Northern Vietnamese Army to provide aid and support to their Southern counterparts.  I'm referring to the current backpacker tracks.  There are two: either you begin in Ho Chi Minh City and go north or you start in Hanoi and go south.  Either way, somewhere along the way, you end up crossing paths with those who chose differently than you and fervently exchange notes on all the places they've been/ you're going to.   If this sounds like conveyor-belt tourism, it sort of is, but with a country as long and narrow as Vietnam, it is all but unavoidable.

I chose option #1 so my introduction to Vietnam came via that place that no one really calls Ho Chi Minh City.  It has had that name since 1976 and every now and then, you see the abbreviation HCMC used in newspaper and such, but almost everyone I came across still refers to it by its earlier name, Saigon.  I guess this is akin to how I still refer to the place where the Dolphins regularly lose as Joe Robbie Stadium even though that name has not existed since the mid-90's.  Also Miss Ho Chi Minh City would make a crap name for a musical.