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48
Ho Chi Minh City
48 visits Vietnam's largest city and its economic and cultural hub.
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 16:41 GMT

Once an isolated communist country on the brink of famine, Vietnam is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and the major force driving this is its largest economic and cultural hub, Ho Chi Minh City.

In this 48, our guides, local journalists Loan and Nhung, showed us how its hybrid of capitalism and communism is transforming the city, still known to many as Saigon, into one of Asia's most promising cities.

The policy of "Doi Moi" in the late 1980s began opening Vietnam's economy to foreign investment culminating in membership of the World Trade Organisation in 2007. Businesses have been booming and franchising has become one of the hottest trends.

PHO24 is the first Vietnamese fast food chain to use the McDonald's template of franchising and apply it to the country's favourite street food - noodle soup.

We met its founder Dr Trung to find out about the Vietnamese demand for a more luxurious lifestyle, and his plans to take on the global fast food players.

Amanda with propaganda artist Ngoc Am

A generation ago, Vietnam's wartime propaganda molded the views of the masses and played a vital part in its struggle for independence. 

Loan introduced us to former propaganda artist Ngoc who talks about his role in the war effort, and how he feels about communism today.

Together we visited Dogma, a contemporary gallery where once-sacred images of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh now adorn kitsch mugs and t-shirts.

Buddhism is the main religion in Vietnam and has a huge influence on the national culture - but Buddhist temples are not just places of worship.

One pagoda in the city is now home to an HIV and Aids awareness group, and celibate monks and nuns are adapting their social work to the realities of modern Vietnam.

Mekong magic

On day two, Nhung and Amanda headed 170km south of Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta.

The myriad tributaries running towards the River Mekong form the main trading hub for fifteen million Vietnamese who live off its fertile tropical wetlands.

Amanda and guide Nhung in the Mekong Delta

Local farmer Tuan took the 48 team to Cai Be floating market, where tightly-packed wooden boats are loaded with some of the regions freshest durians and jack fruits.

Vietnamese love to sing and recently a new trend has taken the local music scene by storm - TV talent contests - inspiring young Vietnamese to set their sights on pop stardom.

Amanda and team meet Vy, the winner of the first ever Vietnam Idol contest, and follow her as she gets ready to perform for a TV audience of millions.

The Golden Album programme chooses the best artist of the month, and Amanda and the guides are in the studio audience to find out if Vy has got what it takes to win the coveted award.

This episode of 48 can be seen from Friday, January 21, at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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