Blood, Sweat and Tears

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog

 › entry 42 of 122 › view all entries

Tried to get up early but failed. Went to the rip off market for a while and decided not to buy anything. We were walking around and I heard a kiwi accent behind me that sounded like Scotty (the guy from the dorm in Hanoi) so I turned around and lo and behold, it was him! We arranged to meet later that night with his other kiwi med school buddy.

After that we walked over to the Notre Dame cathedral, which, in a word was rubbish. Not a touch on Paris. HCMC seems to have a lot of characterless buildings compared to Hanoi which had so much style and personality. The chaos is still the same, if not more, which I love. We went on to see another characterless building- the Reunification Palace, which like the Summer Palace in Dalat, just had loads of rooms with chairs and stuff in them.

However, the War Remnants Museum is unmissable. No museum has ever had an impact like this one. Most of the exhibition rooms were photographs and as the saying goes 'A picture tells a thousand words'. One room was photographs by reporters who died during the war such as Henry Huet and Larry Burrows, who risked their lives to show the rest of the world what was happening. The adjoining room was pretty much a slap in the face for the American bastards because it had loads of statistics showing stuff like how they spend 3 times as many billions in Vietnam than in World War II and yet they still lost because "Vietnam Vo Dich!" The next exhibition space was all about the victims of agent orange and napalm. I'm not ashamed to admit I had tears in my eyes for the whole of this. There was a picture of an American soldier picking up the remains of a body that looked like it had been through a cheese grater and the soldier didn't even have a look of regret on his face. Another photo was of a family's last moments and the photographer said how he heard shots as he was leaving and saw bodies fall to the ground.

Further along were all the photos of Agent Orange victims, which is still an ongoing problem and most of the pictures were from the last 10 years. The Americans dropped dioxin onto the Vietnamese guerrilla's hideouts in the jungle in an attempt to deforest their territory so they could be found. However, it wasn't until later they found out it was harmful to humans and could cause such deformation and disfigurement. This was only because the Americans who sprayed the forest were harmed themselves and only recently the Vietnamese sufferers sued the American companies that made dioxin. One tablespoon can wipe out a city of 6 million. Along the display were photos of people with bad bone structure that caused them to walk on all fours, people with half a face and no eyes, and of course, deformed foetuses that died in the womb- these were real in a glass container.
The next wall had photos of victims of Napalm including the most famous one of Kim Phuc, by Nick Ut. Other photos were of similar stature, including carcasses that had practically turned to ash.
There was a video showing, which if not the same, was more affective than the photos. There was one family with 4 children, of which none had eyes. They weren't just blind, they simply had no eyes. Only the sockets which were undeveloped and left empty. There was also an old man who was feeling responsible for passing down the disease to other generations of his family. There are people living in guilt when they have nothing to be guilty for. Thankfully there are centres for victims of Agent Orange where they can get help and treatment although there is no cure. They were all laying in bed wriggling around but not being able to truly move or truly have freedom, or any chance of 'normal life'. The whole film I was trying to hold back the tears.

Along from this room were loads of drawings by young children of the war, peace, foreigners and unity. All Vietnamese we've met, have no animosity towards the Americans, they're all very forgiving whereas in America I bet there’s no museum of drawings by kids holding hands with Vietnamese and Iraqi's. After that we saw torture methods used in the war (a bit like Hoa La prison in Hanoi) Finally left at closing time and went to go and get Water Puppet tickets and booked Sinh Cafe (surprise) tours for Cu Chi Tunnels/ Cao Dai Holy See (temple) for tomorrow and our Mekong Delta trip for the day after.

Went to see water puppets which were totally worth the 2 quid. It was so cool because there were only 6 people doing all the music and singing/talking and about 8 doing the puppets but they were awesome. Like the puppets moved like real people and squirted water and stuff. When that finished we went to go and meet Scotty who decided to go and get a manicure instead and we only saw him because we walked past. Anyway, they took us to a roof top bar (FP (flashpacker) place) where we had some beers and vodka shots and I ended up spending like 2quid (I don’t know how I'm going to cope back home where that's the cheapest drink itself) And then we took them to our bia hoi place where we saw Hoa from the night before and Tim, Tam and Tom or something. Ordered some beer and Livia dropped hers (drunk). After that we went to some other place that was dead so ended up going to all the biggest hotels and jumping in their swimming pools! Sheraton included (think Park Lane in Vietnam) I love Vietnamese night staff and how they don't care about big Westernised capitalist hotels. The pools were so cool because they were on the roof so we had awesome views. It wasn't so cool when I jumped in and couldn't touch the bottom and forgot I couldn't breathe under water. Whoops. But both Livia and I realised we were like Michael Phelps when we're drunk, I did like 2 lengths in a second, whereas usually I die half way through.
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