Ho Chi Minh City (née Saigon) – Metropolis of Market Socialism

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is a metropolis on the move

Crossing into Vietnam airspace from the South China Sea with the infamous Mekong Delta below us, our flight from Hong Kong landed easily in sizzling Saigon. After waiting an hour for our visas to be issued, we breezed through customs and immigration and soon were afoot in Vietnam.  Still it was hard to believe:  Vietnam… VIETNAM!

This country, looming so large on my childhood and all of America in the 1960’s and 70’s, this city Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the Viet Cong’s successful capture of the South Vietnamese capital).  Unreal.  Yet here I was, extracting Dong bills from the ATM, purchasing an iced tea, freely walking outside of the airport.

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CouchSurfing through the Canals of Xochimilco and Beyond

Trajineras (flat-bottomed gondolas) in Xochimilco, Mexico DF

Sitting in my hotel in Mexico City, tired after a day of walking and sightseeing – alone – I decided to check out the CouchSurfing groups in Mexico City to see if I could meet up with some locals and travelers to socialize a bit.  I’m a fairly recent arrival to the CouchSurfing scene, and since joining about a year ago we have hosted a half-dozen CouchSurfers in our home in Kittery Point, Maine.  And all experiences were unique and wonderful – everyone we hosted was full of wanderlust and shared the “change the world, one couch at a time” spirit of the exceptional CouchSurfing community.

There seemed to be a fairly active group in Mexico City, so I responded to a message offering to meet up on Saturday for a boat ride in Xochimilco, an area at the end of the light rail south of the city center.  Famous for its trajineras (flat-bottomed gondolas) that wind through the canals, the last remaining vestige of ancient Tenotichlán, the Aztec capital built in the middle of a lake in this central Mexican basin cradled in a basin between snow-capped volcanoes.  On a previous trip to Mexico City I visited Xochimilco alone and chose not to go for a ride.  All the other boats were filled with merry groups celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, special events or simply a fun, relaxing afternoon with family and friends.  Feeling conspicuously alone at the time, I just wasn’t in the mood to go solo on the gondolas.

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