City of Ali Babas

My last visit to Ho Chi Minh city was almost 3 years ago. The sleepy financial capital of Vietnam is evolving. New sky-scrapper “Bitexco” lit the evening sky. New shopping malls, casinos, office towers, hotels and branded boutiques are springing up in District 1. The city is slowly transforming. It reminded me of the good old days of Pudong in early 2000s.

Nevertheless, Ho Chi Minh needs more to speed up its growth. The city’s infrastructure is lacking. Its stagnant tourism needs a big revamp to attract more repeated visitors. The government and its ministries need to work together to find the right formula to get the city moving. Clean the street, tidy the traffic, fix the civil service standards and better city planning. Despite all these, the gem of Vietnam is in its people. They are a wonderful lot. Friendly, helpful and charming.

Crime rates are certainly on the rise. 2 of our delegates were robbed on separate occasions on the same night. The locals call these petty snatch thieves “Ali Babas”. I was told not to walk and chat on my iPhone (be it day or night). The thieves target these expensive phones (like iPhone and Blackberry). They will sneak behind you, grab your phone off your hand, punch you in the face and escape on a nearby motorbike. I increased my vigilance around me as I certainly do not want to be the third victim in the group. Guess we took our safety for granted outside our home.

Despite the bad “Ali Baba Experience”, this Ho Chi Minh trip was full of pleasant meetings and surprises. Coincidentally, Chen (my Taiwan friend) was also in town. It was his second trip and I showed him around the city. Later that evening, at our company’s welcome party at the hotel’s rooftop, I bumped into my ex-Poly school mate, Peter Lee! He was our new Creative Director in Taiwan! It was a shocking moment when I saw him walking into our party! Can’t imagine seeing him here in Vietnam after so many years! (We last met in 1999!) What a small crazy world!

I spent my last 2 nights clubbing with an old friend, Kevin (a Singaporean who was based in HCM since 2006). It was good to have him to show us the night life of Ho Chi Minh. All of us had such a fun time together here in Vietnam. (Not forgetting to mention about the low-budget movie Harshad and my boss, David shot on the streets in their hot robe and red under-pants! Opps, not supposed to say this out here!)

2 Responses to City of Ali Babas

  1. c267m says:

    Very nice city indeed, I miss it. I’ve been almost all the places in your photos, except for the “Bitexco”.

    Very nice people as well, can you imagine I had 15 mins’ chat about Shanghai with a motorbike driver on the street when he’s awaiting for a guest? He told me how was his family tour in SH..
    Without saying Saigon girls in long silk robe, I regard this as a symbol of this city.
    Kevin C from KM? is he still there? I guess he’s falled in love with Saigon already.

    From certain angle, HCMC is pretty similar with SH, about 10 years ago. There’s a big space for development. I think they shall start from public security and infrastructure construction.

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