Ho Chi Min City (HCMC) is the name used by the government. The people who live here still refer to this place as Saigon. There is an immediate distinct smell here. I'm sure it comes from the food being cooked everywhere - mostly all the meats. The other noticeable difference is the transportation. While other places have plenty of scooters and motorbikes, Saigon is filled with swarms of them like tightly packed shoals of fish weaving through the streets. This place is hopping.
Each building is only a single room wide rising up three to seven stories with a shop on ground floors and residence or guest house rooms above. Asiana found a cute little place to stay in a tiny back ally with an elderly couple renting a simple room for $8 a night while I had a beer on the street with our buddy from Colorado entertained by people watching. There are a lots of westerners taking advantage of those things that are cheap and more available here, namely drugs and escorts. The large expat community seems to enjoy living here, teaching English by day, roaming around on mopeds and then hitting the many bars at night.
After hitting so many big cities over the last month and half, I have developed the knack of getting the feel of these places quickly. Each place has such a different vibe. Each place hits the senses from a different direction. Saigon definitely has it's own feel and taste that does not take long to distinguish. I get it - I like it - I think we can move on soon.