Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life, in Ho Chi Minh City

Tanks outside the Remnants of War Museum.
Bikes whizz pass as people play draughts in the street.

A form of hacky-sack played with shuttle cocks, played every evening in the parks.

Telecommunication madness.

Life in HCMC.

Ho Chi Minh City is a special sort of place really. Wide boulevards with trees and parks, life always on the go. More motorbikes than you can poke a stick at (which would be needlessly dangerous anyways), tourist hotels that bend over backwards for you... I heard some say they were bored by HCMC, others hated it. Not I, I found a certain affinity with the place in my four days there.

Now I am in Dalat, seven and a half hours by bus to the north-east, where last night I was greeted by horrible sights from Japan where I am due to visit next month. Will have to keep an eye on that situation. But for now let's talk HCMC.

As the photos testify it is quite a place. Craziness mixed in with a sort of calm, and a very chique and well air conditioned mall that I stumbled upon the other day! The wiring leaves a bit to be desired, that's he telecomunications that you can see in the picture. The power seems to be much safer, and indeed no black outs whilst I was in HCMC.

I braved the buses, the backs of motorbikes. I saw temples/pagodas, the reunification palace and the Church of Notre Dame. I spoke to a lot of locals, and partook in karaoke. The Daddy of them all though was the War Remnants Museum.

A somewhat biased account of the war that ravaged Vietnam from the early fifties through to 1975, it just goes to show the victors write the history. Some very confronting things in this museum too, a whole exhibit on the victims of agent Orange. Not for those with a weak stomach, there a photos of those affected both at the time and those born later. Why such a thing would be used (primarily to clear jungle) defies understanding. Anyone who says 'they didn't know the affects'.... that's a poor excuse for an excuse.

A moving exhibit as well to photographers/journalists who covered the conflict but didn't survive it. Whilst I was there a dignitary from Paraguay was also being shown the exhibits. Wonder what he made of it all. Outside the building stood planes and tanks, all American. Inside were the occasional bomb shells, all American. Interesting that all the remnants were American. It suggested the North Vietnamese didn't drop a bomb or do anything wrong...

But still. There you have it. I walked around HCMC and even did a Cu Chi tour without really thinking about the fact that 36 years ago this place was ending a horrible war that is burned into the memories of anyone involved and many more on that.

Yesterday I took a bus up to the highlands here - a place called Dalat. I have an extremely comfortable room and was last night transfixed to BBC World watching a disaster I can still on guess at the scale of. What a world we live in.

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