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It has come a long way and you can now shop in relative comfort but at wallet-humbling cost in the new malls where duty is seemingly levied by the trillion.Glittering shops are sprouting all over Saigon sporting Louis Vuitton, Dunhill, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Dior and Chanel.Among the tallest buildings in Vietnam, the 68-storey Bitexco Financial Tower ( is a Burj wannabe with a helipad and panoramic views from an observation deck on the 49th floor.It offers offices, restaurants and shopping and an occasional vertical run for tower enthusiasts.At Tan Son Nhat, Ho Chi Minh’s international airport, I sank into a comfy chair at the business class lounge and looked around, reassured by the sight of well-groomed staff, all donned in green surgical masks.It's things like this that demonstrate just how serious Vietnam is about getting ahead of the competition.Alas, there's not much to do at the terminal except shop. Along with the speeded up immigration expect cursory security checks for domestic flights where there seems to be no need to whip out your laptop and water bottles for a separate screening.
Or make arrangements to have your shoes, buttons and dentures mailed back to your mum in a box.You just whizz up to the immigration counter and present yourself.Duty-free shopping options at Saigon Airport include a wide range of perfumes from Chanel, Bulgari and BVLGARI to other exotic brands.It is a convivial press though when the traffic lights change it seems the Hoover Dam has burst.In some cases, entire families are perched atop their very own two-wheeler. Nguyen Hue Boulevard emerged mid-2015 from a frenzied bout of metro digging - for the underground train - suddenly revealing the range of perky hotels along its length, now featuring broad pedestrianised sections with manicured greenery and flowers. The Rex, farther up near City Hall (and the iconic Ho Chi Minh statue with an arm upraised seemingly beckoning the joggers and selfie-stick crowd) has been extricated and now gleams in marbled splendour after having been dug in on three sides for almost a year.