Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines on New Years Eve – what a fabulous experience! The city is vibrant with celebratory mood – and what better to do when you want some action and sound and light show than to take your scooter or motor bike and join ten thousands of others to run through the city centre like a beautiful, noisy and joyful worm of light and colours to impress the nuts out of visiting strangers?
Somehow I have got used to the bird’s eye perspective so I just flew up to the rooftop to see this amazing view a little from above and this is how it looked.
Flying down and landing in the middle of these weening and spinning and roaring motorbikes made me feel part of a gigantic motor party. Happy New Year!
First night ever in Vietnam, and our hotel is a Viking hotel! Who would have dreamt of such a coincidence? I feel some stirring deep inside me, some remembrance of bygone times and forgotten adventures in Ireland and England, but I quickly suppress any inclination to attack the lobby manager with anything but my passport. He smiles at me in the most friendly way, not knowing that a former Viking almost had materialised in front of him.
The city – former called Saigon – is decorated for the New Years celebration with red flags absolutely everywhere with the yellow star and other famous symbols of the Communist Party shining in the bright sunshine.
In 2016 the red flags are mixed with all kinds of other advertisements – some of them a tiny bit more capitalistic in nature.
Trafic in Ho Chi Minh City is famous for its slowness and the time it always takes to get from any A to any B. But just this morning half the population has returned to the North or the centre of the country to reunite themselves with family and friends where they originally come from, so just today we can drive like it was the first morning after the car was invented.
The driver takes us to the YMCA kindergarten just outside the city, in an industrial area where many migrants from the North have settled with their families. They need to work and have no-one to look after their kids. That is why the YMCA decided to buy a property out there and start a kindergarten for those young people and their kids. 160 children are taken care of in the best possible way by 16 staff, and for the young people it is almost without any cost. Fabulous!
Luu van Loc is the name of the National General Secretary of YMCA Vietnam. I have known him for years, and he has told me so much about Vietnam and the work of the YMCA in Vietnam. I like him so much and I understand that he is running a very serious and good quality YMCA. Next he takes us to Hope Vocational Training Centre – again set up for the migrant youth from the North, underprivileged young people. Without any cost they can choose from 5 different courses of 6 months duration each:
Refrigeration – the art of repairing air-conditioning equipment or refrigerators – working with everything cold!
Or repairing motorbikes. You have already seen how many there are of them in Vietnam!
Of course they can learn the basics of computer science so that they can work in an office, or they can focus on the technical side and become repair expert of IT equipment.
Here the Headmaster of the school, which takes 160 students for free every year, shows us wind energy technology. And if that is not modern enough, look at
the solar cell panels here. Any idea how to repair it or install it or make it work so that you can get light and cool air from it? The students at Hope Vocational Training Centre is learning all there is to know about it.
This is a photo I show for no other reason than that it is a pretty good one, and show a pagoda in the background.
And this is a typical group photo that I normally try to not show, but this is quite funny because Ingunn looks like the sister of Vilhelm Tell of Switzerland with a red apple on her head, while a big, blue ear is growing out of my head.
A fun bus, modern, but still fun.
The third visit of the day takes us to the Disabled People’s Orientation Club of the YMCA. It is a fantastic centre being run by this wonderful guy in the wheel chair since 2000. More than 160 disabled young people go through this centre pr year, they study, they train and exercise, and they end up in soccer teams, running teams, wheel chair competitions and go to Paralympics and other big events and win lots of prizes. I am deeply impressed and moved and I wish we had hundreds of similar clubs and centres for disabled young and not so young people inside the YMCA.
The walls have no more room for diplomas and certificates and I congratulate the leadership of the club from the bottom of my heart. Moving and impressive!
Outside some non aggressive, almost funny and friendly propaganda drawings,
and just look at this combination of a red flag and a very comfortable car parked right underneath it. Ho Chi Minh City comes across as a rather successful city, vibrant, colourful and with lots and lots of young people. And in the middle of it a very healthy and solid YMCA.
In the evening of the first day of the new year, similar to Christmas Day for us, we are invited by Loc and his family to dine with them – a fantastic meal made according to old Vietnamese traditions.
The family is nice and friendly and receives us with the most abundant hospitality – what a great experience to celebrate New Year together!
These last three photos are great, if I may say so myself. They show the beauty of the backstreets of old Saigon as we walk peacefully away from Loc’s beautiful house in the old town.
Through these narrow back streets the history of the Vietnamese people have floated and today dreams of a better future is flying between the walls as we pass open doors with happy family reunions around tables with similar food that we had just enjoyed with Loc and his family.
And above this beauty of narrow streets in Saigon the red flag with the star is shining in the warm evening lights. The roses underneath are red as well.