It's Day One of another buying trip in Asia. After a brief overnight in Singapore, first stop is Vietnam.

You'd be amazed dear reader that we already have an affinity with this country - all of our zinc pots used to be made in Vietnam but sharp increases in prices forced us to move production to China. But even more surprisingly, this relationship goes way back, over twenty years ago in fact, when we were retailers selling our hand-painted furniture. A great deal of our classic pieces came from here via France. And interestingly, although I hate to say it, the quality was much better than the pieces we had made in the UK - dove tail joints were standard unlike the pieces from dear old blighty.

Ho Chi Minh CityAs you can see from the pictures, Ho Chi Minh City (that's Saigon to those old enough to remember) is in party mood. On 30th April they celebrate 40 years of unification - South and North Vietnam joined as one nation. I'd like to think that everyone is of the same opinion.. everyone seems very happy and there's free spirit and enterprise in abundance, alongside the official government posters. Maybe they're just having a retro moment, who knows.. It's just the odd flag with the hammer & sickle that reminds one of darker days gone past. As a young teenager in Sydney Airport I remember seeing hundreds of Aussie soldiers, resplendent in their bush-tucker hats, going off to Da Nang Airbase at the height of the infamous Vietnam war. I guess it ended in compromise which is no bad thing.

Vietnam signageIn the beautifully preserved Saigon Post Office dating back to 1930, there are two huge hand-painted maps of 'Sud-Vietnam' as it was known then.. Was being ruled by the French any better ? Who can say and it's not for these pages either.. Last night I dipped into the local bookstore and saw a book entitled, 'Ho Chi Minh - a world of decent dreams..' Well if that's what's going on here - I'll drink to that..

Better get back to the day job..