Ho Chi Minh and holding back the tears.
Due to being over budget on the hotel and the rain preventing us from utilising the facilities we booked in to a cheaper place for the next night, so after the usual breakfast, (10 minutes waiting for the pancakes to be replaced, every time someone came through with food we were like meerkats) we trekked in the heat to the hotel, bossing it and doing a 30 minute journey in 20! Dropped our stuff off, booked an excursion to Chu Chi tunnels the next day and got a city map. Today was sightseeing day.
The reunification palace, where the communist north’s tanks smashed through the surrounding fences to take Saigon, was closest so we walked towards that first. The sun was beating down and glorious after the rain of the past few days. I think we got too excited, as the heavens opened and stupidly, I hadn’t brought a brolly or jacket. I got absolutely soaked through! The others got pretty wet too, but at least had some protection.
After hiding in a coffee shop for 15 minutes, me dripping everywhere, the rain stopped!
Nearby was the Notre Dame church, not even slightly based on the famous French version but pretty in it’s own right. A few photos later and we popped over to see the old Saigon post office, a little less interesting but a sight to see in Ho Chi.
After this we decided to head towards some botanical gardens unsure of whether you had to pay to see a horrendous zoo at the same time.
On the way we saw a traditional banh mi cart and devoured the meat and salad stuffed baguettes for 30p. Unsure of the gardens (turns out we could have just seen them rather than go to the zoo) we decided to go to the war remnants museum and learn some Vietnamese history.
We arrived and got a quick drink just outside, 15,000 dong later we were surrounded by tanks, helicopters, and planes, all from the Vietnamese war. We took a few photos and headed inside. The bottom floor is pretty dull, more propaganda on Ho Chi Minh and some interesting communist poster. It was upstairs that got us.
The first room was about the beginning of the war and the bombs and devastation caused by the Americans, this was prettty depressing but what followed was 10x worse.
We entered the agent orange room, this was all about the chemical warfare that the U.S. rained down upon Vietnam. It was awful and it showed children who were severely disfigured due to the chemicals. The first picture we saw was two girls, one with dwarfism and one with learning difficulties who had become great friends. I could feel the tears welling up immediately.
As we walked past picture after picture of children who have been affected by the war, even if they weren’t born yet, it just got sadder. Some of the pictures in the museum are horrific, one of a G.I. holding the charred remains of a Viet Cong fighter was particularly harrowing, others of the vast devastation napalm caused and finally the people that the chems had affected.
I found myself becoming more teary eyed when there were stories of success for the children, as I think it shows that there is a kindness in humanity that places like this make you question.
The final room was dedicated to journalists who risked their lives to bring reports and pictures out of Vietnam, and show the rest of the world just what was happening.
Feeling pretty sad after this we strolled through a lovely park nearby, watching all the people exercising and playing sports, it’s a scene not often witnessed in parks back at home and it was very peaceful. We stopped off at Sun Tourist shop to book our bus to Cambodia for the next day, and went back to the hotel. After wandering round the night before we had seen a few DIY bbq places so thought it would be good to try that.
As we went off into the night I realised we had walked a lot further than I thought the night before, as we didn’t want to stray too far from the hotel we ended up in a dodgy little street food restaurant. The guy in charge was a big fat man with slightly dirty clothes, he took our food order abruptly and then walked away, without time to order out drinks! It was hilarious and we’ve not come across attitude like that as everyone else is almost too friendly.
The food was average and I wasn’t satisfied, so while the other two went back to the hotel I went to get an ice cream cookie sandwich and milkshake from a nearby baskin robbins! Just what I needed, we’re up early tomorrow to get to the tunnels, something I’m really looking forward to.