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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vietnam 1962

In April 1962 I and my wife was on honeymoon in a French boat MV Vietnam. It was a cargo cum cruise ship. There was segregation between the first class and economy class passengers. Western food was served with a free bottle of French red wine at every meal. The ports of call was Saigon, HongKong, Kobe and Yokohama. It was a round trip cruise and we got to see HongKong and Saigon again on our return journey. During that period North Vietnam was ruled by the communists after the French was defeated in 1954 at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. South Vietnam's ruler was President Ngo Dinh Diem. He was anti communist and pro American.

When the ship landed at Saigon harbour, the passengers went on a land tour of the city. Saigon appeared peaceful and business carried out as usual. We did not know then that fighting between the communist Vietcong and South Vietnamese Army was just outside the city. We were taken to the botanicl garden cum zoo, the central market and Cholon district in Chinatown. The streets were lined with hawker stalls and the central market crowded with people. Many stallholders and shopkeepers were Chinese women who spoke Teochew. They traded in textiles, clothes, gold and jewelleries, dried goods and food. At Cholon Chinatown market, the traders were mostly Chinese Cantonese. It was seista time at noon and the market stallholders closed shops to take a nap. Along the way, we saw the slum of Cholon where people lived on both sides of the river. Their botanical garden was just a park and the mini zoo had very few animals.

MV Vietnam

Saigon Harbour

Temple at Cholon, Chinatown

Cholon slum area

A street scene in Saigon

A building at Botanical Garden

Another view of the building

Botanical Garden cum zoo

Another building at the Botanical Garden

A mini zoo at Botanical Garden

Central Market

Textile stall at Central Market

Central Market

Food stalls at Central Market

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