It was onto The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, some more rain, a cool Dutchman named Tim, an ultra fresh Vietnamese girl named Linh, motos ��" millions of them ��" everywhere! Some chi-town people I randomly met in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnamese coffee, bootleg DVDs galore, some “pho” (Vietnamese noodle soup), rain again, an Indonesian salad L, a museum on women in the Vietnam war J, the Cao Dai temple, the Cu Chi tunnels ��" of course ��" in the rain, some cool Spaniards, a big ole crab dinner, a Vietnamese semi jazz lounge with Linh and Tim J, a cheesy club named “Apocolypse Now” (I wonder if it shared the same owners as “Heart of Darkness” in Cambodia), the intersection where Buddhist monks burned themselves to death in order to protest the American puppet Christian ruler (Ngo Dinh Diem) of South Vietnam in 1963, a snail the size of my palm that tasted alright, more pho, Saigon beer, a broken camera ��" nnnnnoooooooo! Four old school disposal cameras later ��" I still got camera skills, I don’t need no digital!
Sometimes traveling you encounter a place that you understand and like.
Vietnam was that place for me. As soon as I arrived, I liked it. It is more populous than Thailand, and has many large cities of a few hundred thousand people. People do their own thing, as they were autonomous and cut off from the western world for a deacade or two, and many Vietnamese can care less about tourism. I met a few locals in Ho Chi Minh City that showed me around. Linh, from travbuddy drove me around on a moto, David, a kickboxer took me out to some authentic Vietnamese clubs. They answered most of my strange questions about the culture, and through these locals I was able to love and appreciate Vietnam.
That is me and Linh - cool photo!
A remnant of the war. A buddhist monk burns himself in protest of the American puppet ruler, Ngo Dinh Diem.
Cao Dai is a modern religion that combines elements of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and a few other ideas into an interesting new religion. As an agnostic (look it up) person it was very fascinating to see. Their ceremony focused a lot on meditation with a few statues of various prophets such as the Buddha, Victor Hugo, and of course, the Jesus.
The Day of Irony in Phnom Penh Cambodia involved the American way: sex, guns, and violence (whatever order you prefer).
The Day of Irony number 2 in Ho Chi Minh City involves what runs the world ��" money and capitalism.
Me in the Cu Chi tunnels.
Ho Chi Minh City ��" Day of Irony #2 ��"
It all started with an innocent trip to the Ben Thanh market in order to purchase pirate DVDs for my friends back in the states. I had taken orders and had a many DVD to get. I wandered the market, and noticed that most of the products at the stands where slightly cheaper than what I paid in Thailand….damn me! And then the rain started to hit….hard! The roof of the market began to leak.
Sellers began to cover up their stalls and merchandise. I had to cross the market to get to the DVD stand. The floor started to flood. I began to walk around. It did not matter. The main pathways of the market had turned into a canal. It didn’t matter….I had a mission….I had to help fellow Americans vegetate out to countless hours of pointless TV shows. This is ‘Nam. Nothing could stop me.
Cao Dai temple
I took off my shoes, rolled up my shorts, and waded across the flooded pathway to the DVD stand. The sewers might have been overflowing.
Plastic wrappers, used straws, chopsticks, food scraps, napkins, and plastic bottles drifted pass me as the rising tide began to impede on my shorts. I noticed a coconut drifting by, and a cockroach clinging to it for its dear life. The cockroach and I met eyes and let out similar grins…..yes my brother, we will make it through this flood…’Nam…this is ‘Nam. My bear feet kept moving…diphtheria, influenza, rabies (can cockroaches have rabies), shit, even scabies crossed my mind as my bare legs were exposed to the element ��" that of the sewage laced rain river of Uncle Ho’s Ben Thanh market. I got to the DVD stand ��" the wire, lost, rome, battlestar galactica, entourage, and great collections of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Academy Award winners were all within my clutches for a fraction of their regular price. God bless South East Asia I thought, as I hugged the hundreds of hours of pointless entertainment like a 60 year old ex-pat hugs his new mail order bride. Precious….
my precious DVDs!!! I took out the magic credit card to pay…..so close to my precious DVDs. The power went out in the market. Maybe they shut it off because almost half the market was under 18 inches of water. No….no….nnnnnoooooooo!!!!!!! What to do. The Vietnamese were prepared. We would go to a stall on the outside and pay there, as their power was on……AAAHHH, so close to my precious DVDs…….The power went out at the stall outside as well as the jewelry store across the street…….Nnnnooooooo! Nothing can stop me. I have a mission, and this is ‘Nam. I stand barefoot, wet, and dirty clutching the prize, the booty, the precious gems of South East Asia….what to do. The Vietnamese want to sell, but I do not have enough cash…….the hotel….a taxi to the hotel will lead me there. Yes, the Vietnamese will follow me….
.Yes, and the DVDs will be mine….all mine. The entire market is now flooded. The street is about 6 inches, then 12 inches, then 18…24…30 inches underwater. No cabs will stop….NNNNOOOOOO!!!!! The store owner tells her son to take me on the back of his moto to my hotel where I have cash. Yes, close again. YYYEESSS!!!! We get on a moto, it now serves as a jet ski. No helmet and a backpack full of the precious DVDs. We cruise with the other thousand on their motorbikes in the flood. The fat American weighs down the moto. My feet drag in the water. Wakes from other motos splash up and hit us in the face. Water starts to enter his tailpipe. This moto is his life. Will it work if the engine floods? What does Uncle Ho Chi Minh think of this. We cruise along. I think of the story of the land that I am visiting and our countries shared past…Gulf of Tonkin, My Lai massacre, Lyndon B.
Johnson, Tet offensive, communism, 60,000 dead Americans, Agent Orange, B-52 bombers, 3 million dead Vietnamese….the license plates are now dipping below the water……Kent State, Operation Cedar Falls, Cu Chi tunnels, AK-47, Richard Nixon, General Giap, Lao, Napalm, General Westmoreland, Cambodia, Hmong, Communism, Khmer Rouge, Market Socialism, Doi Moi. We cruise on, through the canals, past people fishing in the street, the wheels still under water…We fought the war against communism, and here I am, forcing a man to risk his life and his most important possession (his moto) so that I can purchase $100 in DVDs. Communism is dead….Market Socialism is dying…capitalism is shining through…….this driver will do anything for money…..oh my, how time has changed this place! Ho Chi Minh flips over in his mausoleum.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is actually less socialist than the USA. Healthcare, housing, food, and the elderly are all privately funded by Vietnamese families. The government does not intervene.
The school system involves some overtime teacher program that sounds almost necessary if you want your child to succeed academically. The only socialist idea that I heard of in place in Vietnam was a minimum wage. Think of what we have with our welfare and social security system in the USA ��" housing, food stamps, unemployment, and elderly support.
Aside from all of that, I did not find any animosity for being an American in Vietnam. From what I have seen and studied in the USA, most view the Vietnam/American War as a mistake on the part of the USA. I think the Vietnamese understand that.
In 1986 Vietnam declared Communism a “failed experiment” and moved toward Doi Moi, a form of market socialism similar to glasnost and perestroika in the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the leaders of reform in the communist Soviet state is looked down upon by both the Chinese and Vietnamese. Why?....Gorbachev granted political freedom before economic freedom. China and Vietnam are opening up economically, but still run one party systems. Look at the Chinese iron fist on the Olympics. If you are a citizen, you do not mess with the state government, or you are quickly punished. But is a one party system necessarily a socialist one?