National Geographic : 1965 Jun
These population and area figures rival those of Manhattan, but the dwellings of Manhattan average six stories in height; Sai gon is virtually a one-story city (page 848). "As if the contents of a cookie jar had been squeezed into a sardine can," said my Viet namese friend Dinh. He was as fond of cookies as he was of surprising me with his sayings. "We say, 'The dirtier you are, the longer you'll live,' " he told me one day. I said I wasn't surprised. Children in Saigon who survive their first year must have more antibodies in them than well-vaccinated Americans. Dinh said he was glad that I looked at things this way. "We say, 'The taller the bam boo, the lower it bends.' You come from a great country; you can afford an open mind." The evening I arrived, a student named Nguyen Thi Nhu Mai received 3,000 piasters, or about $40, from the Saigon Rotary Club as a prize for her essay on civic virtue. Next morning at dawn, in the Central Market, a student named Le Van Khuyen was shot by a firing squad; the city was under martial law, and he had been caught on the street carrying Viet Cong leaflets, two mines, and a grenade. That was typically Saigon. So was this story I heard from a U. S. Army captain from Texas: "We were up on the roof at the Caravelle Hotel, celebrating the promotion of a fellow officer. A few miles down the river a tanker was burning and exploding. In the opposite direction, planes dropped flares on the VC; I could hear mortars. And here we were drink ing pink champagne, while down on Tu Do Street people went about their business as if it were Saturday night back home." Nearly all the 15,000 Americans in Saigon could tell similar stories, and soon so could I. No other place had excited me so incessantly, 837 the National Legislative Council; Gen. William C. Westmoreland, U. S . commander in Viet Nam; and Brig. Gen. Nguyen Huu Co, commander, II Corps. (Second row, extreme right) Brig. Gen. Nguyen Cao Ky, com mander of the Viet Nam Air Force; and civilian ministers (far left). EKTACHROMES© N.G.S. Spiritual spokesman: The Venerable Tam Chau directs the Buddhist Institute for Sec ular Affairs, a body that prays and parades for peace. "Our people have been fighting for 20 years; there is a limit to human suffering. In the Year of the Snake, we must negotiate," he told photogra pher Garrett. The bonze par ticipated in a hunger strike that toppled the government of Tran Van Huong. "Consecration to a religious life does not mean idle con templation," Tam Chau said. "We must thrust ourselves in to the actual life of the people."