Recent Entries


July 11, 2004

Ho Chi Minh City

The skies above Saigon were illuminated by lightning storms - bolts and flashes - sometimes with rain, sometimes without. The city was packed with the ubiquitous 'motos' and there were shops and markets everywhere. With capitalism running rampant, I'm not sure Uncle Ho would approve of his namesake, but the centre of the city is still called Saigon, and that's how many refer to it.

I got a $4 room high above a cafe, and spent my time getting lost in the maze of streets. When I persuaded people to show me where I was on my map (and not give me a lift on their motorbike), I was usually a long way in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be. I wandered through parks and saw the City Hall, the Opera House, the cathedral and the Reunification (formerly 'Independence') Palace, where the tanks crashed in at the end of the war. The tour of the latter was mandatory with ticket purchase, and a group of us was taken round by a sweet but often unintelligible guide, who showed us the official and residential rooms of the former Presidents, preserved in all their 1960s glory. You could go up to the roof and see the view and the place where a helicopter was deliberately crashed during the war. I had an exhorbitant pot of tea at the Continental Hotel, just so that when I finally get round to reading "The Quiet American," I'll be able to nod knowingly to myself. I ate dinner in a vegetarian restaurant recommended by the pages I'd torn from the "Let's Go Guide to South East Asia 1998." It was a cheerless place with a rank kitchen (I passed through on my way to the loo). I ate a plate of steamed vegetables and then headed back to the cafe I was staying in and had a second meal of egg and tofu.

On my last morning in Saigon, I visited the War Remnants (formerly the 'American War Crimes') Museum. I'd read about a photograph there I wanted to see, in "The Girl in the Picture" - the story of Kim Phuc - that I'd been reading. The first room was harrowing, with photos of soldiers in combat taken by photojournalists, many of whom were later killed. There was a very upsetting picture of a female photographer being given last rites as she lay dying. The second exhibition was even worse, filled with pictures of atrocities committed by Americans and the Southern Army, and deformed foetuses in jars - the victims of Agent Orange. I walked through quickly and thought how lucky I am not to have to witness or take part in war first hand.

I left Vietnam with reluctance, but was excited about seeing Australia. I sat next to a really friendly and interesting couple from Adelaide on the aeroplane, and thought how great Australians are.

Posted by Rowena on July 11, 2004 09:44 AM
Category: Vietnam
Email this page
Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Designed & Hosted by the BootsnAll Travel Network