We'd been on the road for about 2 weeks at this point, but definitely were not ready to stop. Our next stop would by Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We planned to spend two nights and three days in the countries capital named after Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. It would just be Justine, Brian, Chris and I in Saigon as others had moved onto different parts of their travels. Our first stop was the Ben Thanh Market, which was just like any other fake stuff market I have been to across Asia. We picked up a couple of cool souvenirs, had some Pho and left. For our next stop we wanted to go to the War Crimes museum.
I knew a little bit about the Vietnam War through various history and poli sci classes throughout college, but nothing prepared me for this. Upon walking into the museum, you immediately see a handful of Agent Orange victims sitting by a donation box at the front door. According to Wikipedia, the US used Agent Orange for the following reason:
During the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1971, the United States military sprayed 20,000,000 US gallons (80,000,000 L) of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of Operation Ranch Hand. The program's goal was to defoliate forested and rural land, depriving guerrillas of cover; another goal was to induce forced draft urbanization, destroying the ability of peasants to support themselves in the countryside, and forcing them to flee to the U.S. dominated cities, thus depriving the guerrillas of their rural support base and food supply.
Images and quotes like the ones featured above went on in room after room, it was crazy. You would think you would finally read something or see something that was even the smallest bit positive, but it just never. It was an intense experience to say the least.
After the museum, we headed over to the Reunification Palace. A couple of years after the US left the country, the North Vietnamese finally overran the South in Saigon and took over the Palace where the South Vietnamese brass was located. It wasn't anything too special, but definitely worth checking out if in Saigon. Here are some pictures from the Palace.
After a long day, we decided to head back to the hotel for some much needed rest. That night we got drinks at The Rex and wandered the streets a bit. The Rex was a famous hangout spot for US military personell during the war so we figured it would be a cool place to grab a drink and catch the skyline. Here are some pictures of the hotel and the rooftop bar below. (The drink I ordered was called "Going To South Africa" and had like 6 different types of alcohol in it, it also had a pink color and wide assortment of fruits included in it, i wasn't to proud of it went it arrived to say the least)
The following day, Justine, Chris and I had elected to go on a Mekong Delta day tour through a local tourism company. We had planned on spending a night in Can Tho but upon our arrival in Saigon we learned that all of the trains and buses to Can Tho were sold out. Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong Delta and we were hoping to catch some of the Delta there, but unfortunately we were stuck with this tour. Now we didn't really have high hopes for it, but it was pretty bad. The tour was about 9 hours long and did only cost 200,000 Dong ($10 USD) so it wasn't a total loss but it was a pretty terrible tour. It was one of those tours where they take you on a boat, have you get out only to look at a coconut farm where you can buy coconut soaps and liquors.
My favorite (and most certainly the funniest aspect) of the tour was the first stop, this Buddhist temple with a pretty big statue of Buddha sitting in front of it. When we inquired as to when the temple and Buddha were built, our tour guide told us they were both built in 2008. Here are some of the pic's we took with this "historical site".
We next hopped on a boat that took off for about 30 minutes down the Mekong to some place for us to grab lunch. Our lunch facility also doubled as a coconut farm where you could purchase basically anything and everything you could do with a coconut. After lunch and learning a bit about the magical powers of coconuts, I found a crew of toothless Vietnamese men playing 3 card poker. This country lives for this game. I unfortunately know how to play thanks to a trip a few months back to Walker Hill Casino here in Seoul, and sat down to play some friendly poker with these guys. Here's a picture of the 3 of us with the man who was nice enough to take me away from this awful tour for a half hour.
The rest of these are some random pictures from the rest of this tour, a tour that the three of us could not wait to end.
We finally arrived back at the hotel around 5:00PM or so, took a nice nap and headed out into Saigon for the night once again. A friend of ours who studied in HCMC our Junior year for a semester recommended a good restaurant and bar for us to check out, the most memorable of which was the bar. It was called "Acoustic Bar Saigon". It was basically a Vietnamese band who played American pop songs. We were the only white people in there, hearing a bunch of Vietnamese people singing "Living on Prayer" was almost to good to be true. We also somehow managed to get free beers for most of the night somehow. Not really sure how that one worked out. Anyways, here's a picture of the band and us outside the bar.
We called it a relatively early night as we wanted to do some final wandering around the city before we had to leave for Phu Quoc the following afternoon. Here are some other miscellaneous pictures from around the city. Oh yeh, never drive a scooter or car in this city. It's not quite as scary as driving in Beijing would be, but it's pretty close.
All pictures by Chris Bailey.
Published by Sam Schofield