Dang Thuy Hang, who owns two souvenir shops in District 1, also has a different view on what the day means for businesses.
“We will go ahead with our everyday, regular business trying to make money. Nobody wants to remember the war,” she says. “This year will be a big celebration for Vietnamese, but we will just enjoy the day privately.”
Hang says she works mostly with foreigners – Europeans, Americans and Japanese, though there were more Japanese two years ago – who do not find the day as significant as Vietnamese do.
Hang’s stores at 214 Le Thanh Ton Street and 4AB Le Loi Boulevard will sell the usual interior decoration and souvenirs, everything from shiny lacquer bowls and white shell spoons through soft-stone boxes and wooden model boats to colorful blankets woven by ethnic minorities.
She says tourists particularly like to take home lacquer ware. Bamboo is also popular. Her shops’ latest products are vases with bamboo bodies and ceramic necks, which cost between US$9 and US$22, depending on the size. Customers can also bring in their own ideas and designs though it can take up to four weeks to fill special orders.
Tourists who fancy neither poly-resin tanks nor lacquer candleholders but want a “war souvenir” can venture out to Dan Sinh Market.
Hidden behind Phung Son Tu Pagoda, between old motorbike parts and greasy screws, there are flak jackets with “U.S. Army” imprints peeking out of dark corners. Apparently a lot less popular than the boutiques along Le Loi and Dong Khoi, far fewer tourists shop here so the dingy stalls seem to neither be good business nor attest to the bravery of any soldiers.
Evan Zeisel, 25, who just arrived in HCM City for the first time from New York City, says, apart from looking for tacky souvenirs for his collection, he will mainly buy presents, such as snake wine, strawberry jam and qua cau (a shuttlecock for kicking).
But he will not get any militaristic souvenirs. “That’s just sick,” he says. “I also think it’s rude if, for the liberation, people focus on the United States, buying U.S. military supplies, and not on Vietnam.”
But despite the perhaps questionable products for sale, in the end Son’s message, as well as Hang’s answers do get evoked right there in Dan Sinh Market. The time for peace has come when U.S. Army boots and gas masks are largely pushed to the back as people look ahead.