Monday, October 10, 2005

First Full Day in Vietnam

It was really good getting a nights sleep. I am still jet lagged, but it gets better from this point. There was an intense but short rainstorm yesterday ; other than that the weather has been good.

We got together with our tour group yesterday night in the hotel at 7pm. We're a good group of 13, from Australia, England, Spain, New Zealand, and me as the sole American.

After the short meeting over a cocktail, we went across the street to a restaurant, Maxims. Don't know if there is a connection with the French restaurant. The food at this Maxims was Vietnamese, served family style, and it was good. For me, it was washed down with some "333" beer from Saigon.

Am at the Grand Hotel on Dong Khoi Street. This street used to have a French name ( Rue Catinet? ) which was changed after the war. There were lots of bars that were well patronized by the US troops.

A buffet breakfast is included, and it ain't bad. Had lots of fruit, including lychee and some spiny thing were you peel off the skin and eat the soft inside. Also, dim sum , rice soup, and the usual Western things.

We had a walking tour to see the Notre Dame Church, built by the French of course, with brick hauled in from Marseilles. It is 125 years old.

We took a pink bus to the Reunification Palace. It was the South Vietnamese Presidents palace, built only in 1966 or so. We walked through the four floors and then into the tunnel below it. One of the last moments of the war was when a North Vietnamese tank smashed through the gate of this place.

Next, the " War Remnants Museum ", which used to be known as the " Museum of American War Crimes ". There are US aircraft and tanks in front, as well as a replica of the N Vietnamese tank mentioned above ( the original is up in Hanoi ) .

Inside the museum, a litany of all the awful things the US did during the war, including lots on Agent Orange, atrocities committed by the troops, etc. No mention of any atrocities by the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong. Guess they did not commit any.

Next, to the big Chinatown called Cholon, and the large, crowded Bing Tay wholesale market. Back in the 1800s, a Vietnamese king allowed Chinese to settle down there. Actually, this part of Vietnam was not even Vietnamese until very recently in history. Think it was part of the Cambodian kingdom a couple of centuries ago.

We went to Thien Hau Temple, a Chinese Buddhist Temple.

After that, a drive off to a very good, inexpensive pho restaurant. Pho ( pronounced phuhh , as in " fur " ) is a beef based noodle soup that is a big part of Vietnamese cuisine. A big bowl of pho and a soda was less than three dollars.

Back in the room, saw the end of the Atlanta - Houston extra inning baseball game, won by the Astros. Then the beginning of the Yankees game, which I see that they have won.

So, looking forward to tomorrow's trip but not the wakeup call. We assemble in the lobby at 7am for a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, a large network built by the Viet Cong to hide from the Americans and transport stuff back in the day.


People here are friendly, but there is poverty. A lot of it. Walking here, a five or six year old girl approached me selling postcards, and asking " where are you going "? You see people getting by selling trinkets or small bananas or soup on the street from small pots.

The Vietnamese are an old and proud people, and I do not like to see them living like this. I look, but try not to be too obvious.


Post a Comment

<< Home