Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Last week, we took advantage of Matt's work holiday and headed to Vietnam for a few days. We flew directly into Ho Chi Minh City to begin our adventures. Commonly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of South Vietnam.

After leaving our hotel, we ventured to Pho 24 to sample some Pho Ga (or chicken soup) for breakfast. With a squirt of lime juice and a handful of basil leaves, this soup was the perfect start to our day.

With our bellies full of rice noodles and chicken, we headed off to the Reunification Palace. Formerly South Vietnam's presidential palace, the Vietnam war officially ended when tank 843 crashed through the gates here.

The basement of the palace is full of vintage 1960's phones, radios, and office equipment, supposedly left exactly as it was found when the Northern Vietnamese forces took over. I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be sitting here.

Before I go any further, I do want to address one issue I had with the historical sites in Vietnam. While I am by no means an expert on the Vietnam War, I was rather shocked to hear the conflict referred to as the War of American Aggression. Throughout the day, we heard over and over about how Northern Vietnam liberated the South from the Americans. Very little was mentioned about how the Americans were fighting alongside the South Vietnamese. While I realize that my views of the war were shaped by American history classes, I couldn't help but feel a bit misled by the information we were being given throughout our stay.

After the Reunification Palace, we headed to the War Remnants Museum, previously known as the American War Crimes Museum. Outside the museum is an array of US military jets, tanks, and helicopters. Inside the museum was a rather disturbing display of photographs, a simulated "tiger cage" prison, and pictures of deformed children, attributed to contamination by Agent Orange. Another exhibit tells the story of the war journalists from all over the world who documented the very war which would later take their lives.

By the end of our stay in Saigon, we both found ourselves a bit depressed and confused by the information we have been given. While war is never simple, it is at least two sided and we were very much only presented with one side during our stay in Vietnam. Even more upsetting than the biased account of the war however, was the realization of just how many people, from both sides, suffered throughout the war and after.  

With our hearts a little heavier than at the start of the day, we bid farewell to Saigon and headed off to the fishing village of Mui Ne for the next stage of our trip.

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