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Thursday, April 30, 2015

9 Images from Saigon on the 40th Anniversary of the Reunification of Vietnam

It's been fascinating to be in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on April 30, 2015. It's the 40th anniversary of what they call Liberation Day--the day North Vietnamese troops stormed the gates of the presidential palace and seized control from the South Vietnamese government.

Reunification Palace, formerly
the Presidential Palace
Interestingly enough, in no way does this feel like an anti-U.S. celebration (that said, I can't understand what is being said). But the vibe I am getting from the locals is that while Vietnam is very much following the Chinese model in terms of a Communist government allowing some private enterprise, the younger generation is very much pivoting toward the U.S. In fact, their favorite president is Bill Clinton, who normalized relations with Vietnam in the 1990s. He's a huge hero here.

The Reunification Day Military Parade
Channels Chanel
Despite the seeming prosperity and consumerism rampant in Saigon, communism reigns. When I quietly ask if the Communist Party will ever be swept from power, people clam up, citing the fact they have children or otherwise deflecting the conversation.

And this 40th anniversary celebration --it's orderly in a way reminiscent of Soviet-style special events of old in Eastern Europe. For example, I was told by several people that all potential troublemakers were rounded up and thrown in detention the week before. 

Also interesting to note that while the public could watch the military part of the parade (from my vantage point, the soldiers were marching right in front of the soon-to-be-open Chanel store), only dignitaries got to watch the floats and the singers and the dancers gyrating to tunes like the theme from Star Wars. The masses watched those festivities on big-screen monitors.

This is the 'crowd" that turned out to watch
the festivities (closed to the general public) on big
screens in front of the Opera House.

Finally, one further indication communism that is still in full force here--although I found two versions of Monopoly in Cambodia, there was not a Mr. Moneybags to be found in Vietnam, knock-off or otherwise.  Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


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