02 November 2009 – day 17 – Monday – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Today was relatively uneventful compared to other days. We got up very early, ate breakfast and got on the bus which took us to the airport. From there, we boarded a plane that took us to Ho Chi Minh City, which is also known as Saigon.
Saigon is just a very big city, and much more modern than Hanoi.
The electrical lines here are even more of a mess than Hanoi or Santiago. They might be the worst in the world.
We drove by a presidential palace, but we didn't go in. We just stopped for a photo op. Kathy wants to go back there tomorrow if we have extra time.
The highlight of the day was when we visited the War Remnants Museum. Our guide told us that the museum used to be called the War Crimes Museum, but the relationship between Vietnam and the United States has become warmer, so now they've softened the tone.
The museum had a bunch of leftover machinery from the Vietnam war. It was filled with photos showing the horrible things that happened during the Vietnam war. It showed some very graphic photos. War is not pretty. The problem is, the museum only showed the war from the side of the North Vietnamese. It showed some of the terrible things American soldiers did to the Vietnamese people during the war: Killing innocent people, Agent Orange destroying the forests, torture, napalm, death. It didn't show the other side of the story. Let's face it: War is an ugly, horrible thing.
Next, we drove to a big church built by the French during the occupation. It resembled Notre Dame Cathedral but inside it was very boring. I've seen much more interesting churches.
After that, we spent a half-hour at the Post Office. I'm not sure why. I was very hot and very bored. The place was crowded with Frenchmen from a cruise ship and they were noisy and pushy. Kathy and I waited outside.
For lunch, we ate at one of Lee's favorite restaurants. They only serve one thing: A specialty Vietnamese dish called Pho. It's pronounced kind of like “Fur” but almost as a question mark.
After lunch, we visited a Lacquer ware shop. We bought some small things, but I've never been a big fan of Lacquer ware. Some of it was very beautiful though.
Next, we checked in to our hotel, the Chancery. It's a very roomy hotel. It's almost like a suite. The hotel in Dalat City was very small and cramped. Kathy and I couldn't pass each other in the room without bumping against each other. The Chancery, on the other hand, is very spacious and roomy. We have two different rooms, each of which is very big.
We rested for a few minutes, then Kathy and I hailed a taxi. We asked the driver to take us to Tax Plaza, which is really just a big shopping center. We wanted to go there because Kathy's camera lens started having problems. It started having problems extending and retracting. So Lee had suggested we take the lens to a particular camera shop near Tax Plaza. So our first order of business was to bring the lens to the shop and see if they could fix it. The man didn't speak much English, but he told us he thought he could fix it. If he could fix it, he said he would charge sixty dollars. If he couldn't fix it, he would charge us nothing. We decided to do it, because I think Kathy would go crazy if she had to take photos at Angkor Wat with her lens not working properly.
From the camera shop, we went jewelry shopping. I decided to buy a nice ring. We found dozens of nice jewelry shops, but none of them had a ring I liked well enough to buy.
Eventually, we walked back to the hotel. Our hotel is right across the street from a very nice park, so we walked through the park and took some photos on the way back.
Interesting observation about Vietnam for the day:
The Vietnamese people are very hard workers, and they don't seem to discriminate based on sex. You often see women hauling around wheel-barrows full of bricks or busting their butts pouring cement or whatever. It's incredible. I've never seen a city or government worker sitting down on the job. They're always clipping grass, sweeping the streets, collecting trash or some other manual labor. They work very hard, and constantly. And it shows: Saigon is surprisingly a very clean city. There are eight million people living here, but you hardly see any trash in the streets or anything.
Overloaded vehicles of the day:
I guess I didn't get any good photos of overloaded vehicles. Bummer.