[PHOTOS] Vietnamese Finally Get A Taste Of McDonald's Burgers And Fries

Four decades after the Vietnam War ended, US fast-food giant McDonald's has opened its first restaurant in the country, aiming to lure a rising middle class away from rice and noodles.

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Techno music blasted as a crowd of hundreds lined up behind velvet ropes, waiting to gain entrance into the city's hottest new attraction

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But it wasn't a new nightclub that residents had queued up for in this energetic city of more than 7 million; these lines were for the grand opening of the first McDonald's in Vietnam.

By 8 a.m. Saturday, 8 February 2014, a large crowd had gathered outside

When the doors officially opened two hours later, eager customers surged into the colorful new 350-seat restaurant to sample Big Macs, french fries, Chicken McNuggets and one menu item added specifically for the Vietnamese market — the McPork sandwich.
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A handful of cars and a legion of motorbikes — still the predominant means of transportation in Vietnam — moved haltingly through the country's first drive-through, with staff on hand to help explain the ordering system.

Free balloons, face-painting, live performers and photo-ops with Ronald McDonald created a festive atmosphere, while proud parents and grandparents of new McDonald's employees buzzed around the restaurant with cameras and video recorders.

The US fast-food giant McDonald's has opened its first restaurant in the communist country Ho Chi Minh City four decades after Vietnam war ended

The arrival of one of the most potent symbols of US capitalism in southern Ho Chi Minh City -- known as Saigon when American troops dramatically withdrew in 1975 -- is the result of a partnership with the son-in-law of Vietnam's powerful Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

A giant Big Mac at a new McDonald’s location in Ho Chi Minh City is a popular photo backdrop.

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People at the McDonald's opening in Ho Chi Minh city on 8 February 2014

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McDonald's is following US rivals Burger King, KFC and coffee giant Starbucks into Vietnam — a country many Americans associate more with an unpopular war than a newly wealthy middle class

Beauty salon workers eating Burger King meals during their break in Ho Chi Minh City. A hamburger at Burger King costs 65,000 Vietnamese dong — about $3.

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Signs of the country's rising affluence were on display Saturday as hundreds of people — mostly young students or families with children — queued at the McDonald's store on Dien Bien Phu street, named after the battle that ended French colonial rule in Indochina

For most of the Vietnamese customers, it was a chance to experience an iconic brand that they had only known from afar

"I like fast-food. I don't like Vietnamese food. I don't like fish sauce," Nguyen Hoang Long told AFP as he devoured a Big Mac meal, referring to the pungent condiment made from fermented fish and sea salt that is used liberally in local cooking.
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"McDonald's in Vietnam is seen as a high-class restaurant. In the US, it's just normal," added the 25-year-old, who acquired a love of fast food while studying in California.

Motorcyclists line up at a drive-through area during the opening of Vietnam's first McDonald's restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city

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In addition to the usual McDonald's fare, the menu includes McPork sandwiches, pioneered for the pork-loving country. "It's very tasty and the size is just about right for my lunch," Nguyen Trung Kien, 26, said after finishing a McPork, priced at $3.10, a not-so-cheap lunch in a city where street vendors sell a bowl of beef noodle soup for $1.50.

McDonald's local partner, Henry Nguyen, once flipped burgers for McDonald's while growing up in the United States, where his family fled at the end of the war

Also known as Nguyen Bao Hoang, he returned to his native country more than a decade ago and was outside the store Saturday directing traffic -- mostly motorbikes and the odd cyclo -- into the drive-thru.

Nguyen Bao “Henry” Hoang, founder of Good Day Hospitality and managing partner of IDG Ventures Vietnam, was awarded the license to operate McDonald’s in the country.

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The arrival of McDonald's marks a full turnaround for the fortunes of US brands in former wartime foe Vietnam.