Good Evening Vietnam

Trip Start Feb 27, 2012
Trip End May 19, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The sleeper to Ho Chi Mihn was much better than others we've had in Vietnam - possibly because we were so exhausted we could have slept just about anywhere.

We did however arrive before sunrise with nowhere to stay (thanks for saving us yet again).

After crashing out for most of the day we tried to sort out our Visa's to Thailand at the embassy - turns out it will take a few days so we will be stuck here in HCM for now.

Ho Chi Mihn (aka Saigon or HCMC) is probably the most westernised part of Vietnam we have seen. Everything a tourist could want is on offer even Pizza Hutt! - a bit ironic really, perhaps the Americans won the war after all. The place is almost as busy as Hanoi and has even more beggars and hawkers (and they are REALLY persistent).

Over the few days that we stayed in HCMC we visited most of the tourist sites around town including "Reunification Palace" where the former South Vietnamese government used to be based and was famously toppled when tanks smashed through the front gates, thus ending the war.

The most interesting attraction for me was the "American War Crimes Museum" which tried to exhibit the North Vietnamese governments perspective on the war - as opposed to the USA centric view portrayed by Hollywood. I will admit that although I did study the war at school most of my knowledge until now has been from Platoon and Full Metal Jacket.

Aside from the very cool hardware on display such as captured tanks and fighter jets most of the exhibits were very graphic, detailing things like how Agent Orange and Napalm destroyed thousands of innocent lives (I didn't take photos of these - it didn't seem right). For sure the museum was biased, but you can say that about any museum. To their credit though, a large part of the museum was dedicated to showing how the American troops suffered during the war - I doubt you would find the equivalent at any war memorial in the USA.

For me one exhibit stood out - it was simply a photo of a boy over his soldier father's grave with the caption:

"When I was a child
I spoke as a child
I understood as a child
I thought as a child
But when I became a man
I put away children things"

This picture stayed with me for the rest of our trip and summed up much of what I learned about why evil and fucked up things happen in this world. When we are born our minds are open, we do not not hate or judge, this we learn as we grow up. I think that travelling in some way lets us see a new part of the world as a child with our eyes and minds open and without prejudice.

Anyways enough with the deep and meaningfulls.

After that humbling experience it was time for us to see what Saigon's night life had to offer - and it was crazy. Because the place is crawling with tourists hawkers scour the streets, they start the evening by confronting you in the bar or restaurant trying to sell you books and tobacco, later they reveal that they are also selling drugs. By the end of the night they try to sell themselves, and these girls find it really hard to take no for answer - Vietnam has certainly given us thicker skin.

We did however enjoy mixing with other like minded travelers. One good sort who we spent most of one evening with was a forest fire fighter who worked in the States nine months a year then spent the rest of his time travelling - what a life!

On the third and final day in HCMC we went on a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is where a large number of North Vietnamese soldiers built a massive tunnel network right under the Americans noses to wage a guerrilla war. Our guide was a former South Vietnamese soldier who fled Hanoi early in the war because of his catholic beliefs and fought against the communists. All the guy really wanted to do was forget about the war and get on with his life but by some cruel twist of fate he has to re-live it every day by taking tourists through the tunnels.

The tunnels themselves were really amazing to crawl through, and at the end of the tour you get to fire an AK-47 assault rifle for $20. Totally disrespectful but who could turn that down!?

That brought our Vietnam leg to a close. Next stop is Cambodia and I am really looking forward to seeing some cool temples but suspect that we will be doing more icky war stuff as well.
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