Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Venturing to Vietnam!
So here I am in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City, sometimes still known as Saigon.
I should start a couple of days back. On Sunday, still in Singapore, I ventured to the Changi Museum, remembering the second world war as it was in Singapore, and the prison that was used by the Japanese to intern anyone they thought might cause them trouble. In short, a nice little museum, small, but effective. I was expecting to see a few more grizzly sights, but thankfully it was more contained. Interesting but I felt I wanted to learn more about the occupation which seemed to occur extremely swiftly on the back of people not believing the Japanese would actually come to Singapore.
Onwards and upwards. I found myself on a Tiger Airways flight after very little sleep from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City (hereafter referred to as HCMC) early Monday morning. Before I knew it it were we down in HCMC, an airport built right next to houses. I am looking down seeing the residential area thinking we are awfully close to them, a fence and we are down on the tarmac.
HCMC is quite a place. Unique in its own special way, it is certainly set up for backpackers. I have a lovely room on the sixth floor of this hotel, and the only thing missing is a lift! Aircon, double bed, fridge, TV... all I need. All the tours, buses and trains can be booked through here too, not to mention Visas for onward travel if needed. Outside it is backpacker central. Is that a good thing? Possibly... restaurants are overpriced for sure. But then I spent 8 dollars on burger chips and two drinks and thats not outrageous is it?
It's an area where people walk down the street and ply their wares. Sunglasses, photocopied Lonely Planets for very cheap prices and massages in the evening in your chair.
Yesterday I journied out on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels and a strange temple in Tay Ninh. The 'Great Cao Dai Holy See' is dedicated to the mostly unknown religion 'Cao Dai' formed over 100 years ago recogizing an alliance between Victor Hugo, a Vietnamese poet and a Chinese revolutionary. It is a Christian sect. As a service took place the tourists, including a shameful me, piled in and watched and took photos. Many climbed up to the balconies to get a better view of the chanting and bowing. I tried to stand back at the back and justify this intrusion. How would one feel in a church in Australia if people came in and took photos? Hmmm.....
The Cu Chi tunnels are a group of tunnels stretching up to 200km, based around the area of Cu Chi, a little way out of HCMC. They were used in the.... "American War" as it's known here. I mean, the Vietnamese can hardly call it the Vietnam war can they?
Well, there are a range of things to see in the complex. I walked along the tunnel for about 15 metres but it's very cramped. Only about 1.2 metres high so very hunched over. They are at least twice the size now that they were in the 60s, as the VietCong used them to escape the opposition, or to pop out and suprise them. We also were shown a series of deadly traps used involving spikes. Amazing how many ways spikes can be used in a hidden hole in the ground. We also saw what life was like underground. Bomb shells from the Americans, and if you were keen, which I wasn't, you could fire off a few rounds from various guns. Shoulders optional, afterwards that is...
So more to follow. About to venture out into HCMC and see a few places today. So far I have only good things to say about Vietnam. Friendly, easy to get about, fairly clean streets too which I admit to not expecting! Very different from Singapore.... Photos when I get a chance, doesn't appear to be an attachment on this computer.