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Full Circle

Day 84: Saigon

Tay Ninh, Vietnam 
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Full colour religon. Service in progress at the Caodaist cathedral.
Michael Palin - Full CircleWhen John arrived in 1988 there were only five banks, all French, operating here, now there are seventy. Certainly Saigon, with its mobile phones and Italian cafés, is fast and lively and much more cosmopolitan than Hanoi. There are more scooters than bicycles down here and there is certainly nothing in the staid northern capital to rival the chay rong rong - the 'big ride round' which takes place on the Nguyen Hue Boulevard in the evening. Thousands of young men make circuits of the central streets on motor scooters. For an hour the centre of the city becomes a deafening mile-long swirl of be-scootered youths.

That's not all scooters are used for in Saigon. On returning from a meal on Dong Khoi Street (a.k.a. the Rue Catenat where the hero of Graham Greene's The Quiet American lived) we are propositioned by motorized prostitutes who cruise along beside us on 50 cc mopeds offering 'massage' or 'boom-boom'. They won't accept 'no sex please - we're British' as an answer and, getting no satisfaction, one of them heaves her bike up onto the kerb and pursues us along the pavement.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 84
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Saigon
  • Book page no: 124

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