Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Sights of Saigon

Just writing this and realized there is a Gecko crawling over my feet - that is what that tickling was! Anyway, down to business:

Last night was great; watching the football in a rooftop bar and very pleased with the England result. Through to the knockouts!
This morning was not so great - yesterday afternoon when we arrived we hadn't realized that we had picked a hotel right next to a covered over demolition site! So this morning's wake up call was an hydraulic drill meters away from our heads at 6:45 in the morning! Not great when we had had a late night watching the football. Ben and I promptly got up and spent an hour looking round for another reasonable hotel - there are so many, but also so many rip-offs. Eventually we found one, and went back to get the girls before checking in.

At about 10 we headed out on the walking tour around Saigon. First stop was the largest market in the city; and boy was it big! We spent an hour in there are still only saw about a quarter of it. I bought a Saigon branded Indiana Jones style hat - trying to keep the sun off! and a very nice collarless linen shirt - not bad when together they only cost me $5!
From the market we continued in the heat, getting a little bit lost down the back streets, to The Fine Arts Museum. That was surprisingly very interesting; with a mixture of contemporary, "politically correct" and wartime art. The displays showed the influence of the communist government on the paintings; with vast displays of similar style paintings and artifacts of Ho Chi Minh and other leaders that were prized as pieces of art (debatable when one of the artifacts is his water bottle and hat!).

After the art gallery we continued seeing a few sights; including the outside of the Ho Chi Minh Museum (lots of tanks etc) and a noodle bar where Bill Clinton ate. We eventually stopped at a fantastic restaurant where we grabbed a bite to eat and recovered a bit with cold drinks.

Full on our lunches we went round the corner to the War Remnants Museum. This was by far the most interesting display/museum that we have visited. With tanks, helicopters and planes outside only being the start of it. Inside revealed a whole side of the Vietnam War, which I had known little about, despite studying it for A-Level. The whole downstairs of the museum demonstrated the effects of the chemical warfare used by the USA in Vietnam, in particular Agent Orange. It showed the horrific after-effects of the chemicals, including genetic mutations and skin damage. Upstairs was a timeline of the Vietnam War with illustrations; it was interesting to see the "Then and Now" pictures of the Vietnamese towns and cities that we have visited. There was also an area of propaganda posters demonstrating the huge anti war movement and an area outside that showed the inhumane conditions that POWs were kept in by the French and later Americans on Phu Quoc island. Although the museum is hugely bias against the Americans, it was incredibly eye opening to see the effects on the infrastructure, people and psychology of Vietnam.

All feeling rather tired and a little silent after the museum, we headed back to the hotel via a cold drink stop in the central park, to get away from the noise: The number of motos here is crazy; don't think that we will be hiring ones as it looks like suicide!
This evening we're going to have a meal and an early night I expect, as we all had an unintentional early start. Tomorrow we are off to a water park!!

Another exciting day in an exciting city!

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