Relationship Booster: Set the Mood in Scenic Saigon 

Buddhist Temple in Vietnam

Buddhist Temple in Vietnam taken by J. M. Wilder Bill

A sure-fire way to reset the idyllic images you shared between your loved ones and yourself is by exploring a historic destination together. My family and I roamed Saigon together and I’d classify it as a wildly exotic city.

In fiction, Saigon is portrayed as the romanticized metropolitan where men fall deeply in love during warfare and women weep bitterly when the treaties are signed. Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam during the long war that sacrificed lives from all over the world. The new generation as of 1976 grew up with Saigon’s revamped image under the name of a previous North Vietnamese leader credited for gaining independence for Vietnam in 1945, Ho Chi Minh City.

Like many history buffs, my husband gets excited about standing in a place he’s seen in the news as having great political significance. We made a point to touch the Reunification Palace gates where a tank was televised for destroying the barrier and seizing the territory as an end to the Vietnam War. When South Vietnam fell, the country reunited as a communist society.

To appeal to my gentler qualities, we strolled through Ho Chi Minh City’s French colony that was established around 1856 and lasted into 1945. The elegant style is evident in the clean architecture and artistic pockets in the street layouts. The French colonial district still feels alive with the dashing reporters and the dare-devil media cast in noir detective mysteries.

We appreciated the retro-accommodations in the Rex Hotel, the Caravelle Hotel, and the Hotel Majestic. It is a town conducive to couples bonding under atmospheric sightseeing at the City Post Office and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. 

When we returned home, my dear local Vietnamese friends became sentimental at seeing photos of the community where they lived. They had a home around the corner from the post office and I was able to better understand the difficult choice they made in leaving an endearing town they cherished to live so far from their relatives. I was able to show that I valued her walk through life by taking time to educate myself on her customs and challenges. I would touched by her keeping a few photos of me in her hometown as a memento of our growing closer. 

Like many towns, Ho Chi Minh City has a hidden gems. Each museum warranted a day of attention because not only are filled with artwork, they contain perfectly preserved pre-historic artifacts. With Vietnam having ideal geography for waterway transportation and creating a barrier against warring countries, it has been invaded continuously going back to pre-historic times. Cambodian relics and ancient mythological statuary were discovered nearby, showing how resourceful their ancestors were in surviving raids and famines. 

The museum also provides quaint innocence. Children put on theatrical puppet productions with fireworks over an elaborate temple and characters dancing in water.

We felt an emotional moment when we visited the last site televised at the end of the Vietnam War. A helicopter landed on the roof of an apartment building in downtown Saigon to evacuate a select few Americans. This was the last evacuation.

Once the helicopter was out of site, the townspeople broke into chaos. Vietnamese families crowded the streets, burning papers and any other evidence that suggested they were in cahoots with someone from the United States.

Another romantic element is the Shangri-La mood within the narrow back streets. Not every aspect of Ho Chi Minh City was influenced by Western civilizations. The people were careful to protect the elaborate Buddhist temples modestly tucked between modern skyscrapers.

To peek inside a temple that is open to non-practitioners, you must venture into the depths of the authentic community. Your senses are rewarded with heady incense, bold decorations and abundant candles. The statues portray images of peacefulness and centeredness. My family and I were overcome with the calming effects of respect shown by the practitioners upon their entering the shaded sanctuary.

A way to boost the love ratio while traveling with loved ones is by taking time to venture outside the developed communities. We experienced a harmonious mood from spending time in the countryside. Outside the cities, Vietnam is green with nature. Rich shades of greenery cushion cottages and airy restaurants. The landscape shifts into an energized good-earth. 

In the rural areas, tables are immaculately set up to sell antiques and unique Asian relics. Booklets of stamps and vintage currency offer history and artwork at low prices. Fresh fruit is a delicacy. The lush fauna allows you to easily connect with Earth. It’s as if the landscape whispers Yanni songs while polite and tailored locals attentively sell their products. You feel as though you’ve meditated and practiced yoga for weeks after a clean meal. Natural fabrics and cleansing vibes permeate the calming effects of tailored gardens. Leaving town is like entering a spa spread across hills if paradise.

If you love history and reconnecting with the Source energy, Vietnam is the place. Refugees return to visit on family and realign with their heritage. The country emits soothing energy, however there is pollution issue in the cities and coastal communities due to manufacturing. A sense of devastation from the war lingers over the residents. Although the city is sensitive to the effects from the war, the raw beauty flourishes, budding into an inspiration for feeling the love of mankind within your family and amongst your neighbors.

Venice Funnels a Spiritual Walkabout

image of lobby at the Danieli Hotel in Venice

Photo: Hotel Danieli, Venice by J. Wilder Bill

Entering Venice transports you into the Renaissance period of religious paintings and relics. The goddess city is an excellent setting for a modern crusade. You can use the renovation projects funded by Venice in Peril as your guide, unless the environmental elements disintegrate the design flare created from the 13th through 17th centuries.

Arriving by train builds anticipation with each depot stop where teenagers board carrying backpacks and sleeping bags. After the shock of disembarking at a rundown train station, you exit into a world with the electrifying energy of Diagon Alley on the other side of the Leaky Cauldron’s wall.

Outside, the sun streams the length of a canal lined with quoined terra cotta and vermilion facades. Vaporetti drift within speeding flatboat taxis. Bridges span the waterways. Alleys funnel in all directions, corridors to churches and cemeteries. Regardless of how you arrive, both hotel and public boat taxis can take you down the winding canals to the submerged doorstep of wherever you stay.

“I love Venice. I remember Mozart lounging on a vaporetto in Amadaus,” I say to my dear Yankee husband, Zip.

“That’s Vienna,” Zip replies. “Mozart never lived here. People always get Venice and Vienna confused.”

We set off to explore the chapels with me in my favorite walking heels and a stroller in tow so I don’t have to carry the whippersnapper. Zip, eager to take in all the crumbling, desolate and bustling dead ends before cocktail hour, ducks through lingering crowds, leaping up the steps of bridge after bridge, after bridge.

“I sure can visualize Mozart here.” I shake out my numb toes while describing the lavish costumes and garish makeup from the movie.

“It’s Vienna,” he says.

By mid-afternoon, I’m fatigued and no longer able to pick up the stroller and child to carry over the arched bridges. Strangers break free from understanding companions to help lift my cargo over the steps. No matter which alleys my husband and I venture down, we eventually returned to the same Ponte dei Barcaroli bridge. I convince Zip to take in the beauty of a vaporetto ambling below. Lo and behold, an enormous sign gives homage to Mozart having been in that very spot.

“See. I know history. I watch TV.” I nudge my husband and he nods.

I manage to get the last word only because Zip doesn’t read Italian. Mozart merely visited the city with his father.

The secret to a spiritual walkabout is to venture down the intriguing crannies alongside interconnecting canals. On the other side of the next bridge are decaying neighborhoods with artistry equal to the refurbished sections.

Exploring by boat gives a breathtaking view of the mansions, especially where you glide inside the foyer of a palace. A new perspective appears during a midnight sail.

Key points of the city include the Basilica of St. Marks where the disciple’s bones are preserved. Harry’s Bar boasts having authors and artists create their greatest works within its walls, with Ernest Hemingway as one of the most famous.

Each island has a unique flavor. A monastery fortress fills one private destination. A fisherman’s island is lit with yellow buildings and vibrant fabrics cover the doorways. On another is amazing glassware.

Unfortunately, part of Venice’s unique ambience are the eroded stucco and weathered artwork. Venice in Peril hopes to deter the effects of the sea level consistently rising four to six millimeters per year as estimated by the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit. Where St. Mark’s Square once flooded fewer than ten times per year, the frequency has increased to sixty times within the same period. Flooding encompasses as much as 93% of the city.

The paintings and architecture suffer from air and water pollution, as well. According to Nations Encyclopedia, Italy’s air pollution includes deadly carbon monoxide emissions. Water pollution caused by industrial and agricultural contaminants has warranted warnings for pregnant women to have abortions.

Venice in Peril empowers the restoration of murals and building foundations. They give equal support to the lesser known churches and cemeteries, and therefore they preserve history. Their project list can serve as a discovery path on how Venetians viewed religions and politics throughout the ages. For information about specific projects funded by Venice in Peril, see, https://www.veniceinperil.org.