Friday, October 14, 2011

With Katie in Ho Chi Minh City

FRIDAY, 14th October

Today we walked around Ho Chi Minh City checking out many interesting places. First up was Ben Thanh Market, only 10 minutes from our hotel.
It was hot, crowded, bustling...

So much stock! So little room!

So much to see, but you can't stop and look because if you do you are grabbed (literally!) and badgered to buy. It's a shame, really. In their frantic endeavours to coerce you into buying their goods, the stall holders give you no space to look and consider and effectively chase you away. I understand that they are keen to make a sale, but considering the number of tourists there I am surprised that they haven't twigged that westerners do not respond well to harassment.

Katie found the experience extremely off-putting... as soon as we stepped through the entrance a man grabbed her, trying to drag her over to his stall and he wouldn't let go until she shoved him off. Pity. We would have enjoyed a leisurely perusal of the more interesting things... take these handbags, for example... they're quite unique!

Nevertheless, we were on the hunt for a carved wooden sword for Greg. He had spotted them when he and Gemma came here on their honeymoon four years ago and thought he would be able to pick one up in Hanoi at the end of their trip, but then couldn't get one. We found the sword he'd described so we bargained hard and bought it... a big heavy load to carry around for the next two weeks! The sword is all we bought...

It's completely different in the fresh food section. They don't expect foreigners to stop and buy, so we were free to wander and look
The prawns and crabs were still wriggling

The tofu here would have been made this morning - so fresh!

Gorgeous flowers at the outside florist stalls

From Ben Thanh Market we walked to the War Remnants Museum. This museum exhibits the remnant proofs of Vietnam War crimes and their consequences in an endeavour to influence the public to say no to war, and yes to peace. It is a stark, harrowing reminder of how brutal man can be. Outside in the courtyard are a collection of planes, tanks and helicopters, etc

There are replicas of prison cells, cages and instruments of torture
It was common practice to pack 18 prisoners in a tiny cell with little ventilation, very little water and dreadful food. On top of that abuse, they were tortured. The photographs of horrifically mutilated victims are beyond belief. The biggest tragedy is that the perpetrators of the abuse were once innocent little children. How did they come to sink so low as to be capable of doing such things to another human being? What demonic forces drove them to it?

There is a section of the museum displaying photographs taken during the American War... Both sides of the conflict suffered so much death and destruction. And then there are the photographs of the children born later with dreadful deformities as a result of their parents being exposed to Agent Orange... and there are still children being born suffering this way.

The amazing thing is that the Vietnamese people I met hold no grudges. Today Americans and their allies are welcomed as friends. The war years are left in the past... history. This generation will not be shackled by hatred, bitterness or unforgivenness.

Check this out...
The guys who work for the power companies here must be genius' to unravel this lot successfully!

We stopped for brunch at a little restaurant I had dinner in back in February.

Katie ordered Bánh hỏi heo quay (crispy pork and greens wrapped in lettuce leaves ) and I had Miến gà (chicken soup with banana flower salad on the side). It was absolutely perfect - so fresh and delicious.

Our next stop was the Ho Chi Minh City Museum. It's a very popular venue for  posing for wedding photos

There is plenty to see... exhibits include nature and archaeology

These artefacts are from 2100BC

History and culture


Great dioramas depicting industry and handicrafts

And of course memorabilia from the revolutionay struggle and the War

It was all fascinating.

After the Museum, we walked past this little shop selling excellent pottery.

I loved it all... and ended up buying two of the figurines you see on the right - beautiful Vietnamese ladies from Hanoi and Saigon.  We hadn't gone far after that when the afternoon storm rolled in. So we took cover in a very trendy, popular bar and enjoyed a cool drink and a sit down while we waited for it to blow over.

It was then time to head back to the hotel, for we had to leave for the airport at 4pm. This was in a park we walked through:

High schoolers doing PE

Having walked for over six hours today and seen so much, we checked out of our hotel, said goodbye to Giang (from ASC Travel) and caught a taxi to the airport. We caught the 5.55pm flight to Danang with Vietnam Airlines. It was a comfortable 70 minute flight, and we were met and driven to Hoi An (an hour south of Danang) and arrived at An Phu Hotel at about 9pm. A shower and bed looked pretty good about then.

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