Saigon Day One
As soon as we got off the overnight train, our tour leader had a full and busy day planned for us. We showered, had breakfast, and then were off on a bus for an hour or so to Cu Chi to see the tunnels famous in the Vietnam War. We had a different guide for this, and she stopped us on our way out to have a look at a rubber tree plantation. While interesting we were exhausted.
The tunnel complex itself was interesting. Firstly we were directed to watch a video, that I assumed would tell us about the area, what we were going to see, and the history and use of the area. Instead it was a propaganda video from the war, showing us fearless young girls and boys fighting for their villages against the ‘murderous Americans’. It puts me in two minds, while they certainly have reason to speak with passion about the horrors inflicted upon them I was repelled by the obvious bias, so I’m not sure whether this video inspires tourists to feel more, or less, sympathetic towards them.
I was also unbalanced by the tone of the rest of the complex. There was an expectation that we were there to have fun, full on laughter and shouting kind of fun, which seemed inappropriate to me and the Australians. There was one exhibit of mannequins dressed as soldiers, and when one of the group pulled out his camera to take a photos the guide misinterpreted this and got us to all stand as a group and grin in front of the soldiers. I don’t think anyone was comfortable with this. Once the leader had moved on he got his photo of the exhibit minus the smiles.
|Another odd exhibit of mechanised mannequins. The motion gave it the air of some sort of macabre fair ground attraction.|
|Christina, being told to smile at the camera. This is a tourist tunnel that has been increased in size to fit larger people.|
At this point my stomach decided to clearly explain that it wasn’t happy with the sanitary conditions here and so I spent the rest of the tour and the return bus trip getting a full understanding of the term stomach cramps. Something I’d never had before. Thankfully the travel doctor had given me some drugs for just this situation and they promptly did the trick.
That afternoon we were taken on a cyclo tour of the city and went to a café Bill Clinton had been to, as evidenced by the photos proudly displayed on the walls, and then to the War Remmnants Museum. This was a slightly more educational experience than any other museum we’d been to, but was also very emotive and not subjective. I’m just not used to that.
|Cyclo in traffic.|
We were also taken to see the Notre Dame Cathedral - apparently brought over by the French and assembled here. Accross thr road was what we thought was a railway station, but it turned out to be the post office. An impressive building, with a large portait of Ho Chi Minh surveying activity from the back wall.
The cyclo drivers took us back to our hotel, and after throwing a bit of a hissy fit about the size of our tips, left.
We were all pretty exhausted at this point, but we only had time for a quick shower and then we were off to dinner at a slightly posher restaurant than usual as it was the birthday of one of the girls in the tour group. The guide explained that the reason the prices were still quite reasonable despite the location, was that it was a state owned operation. We had no objections, though unfortunately my stomach and that of the birthday girl's were still a little touchy.
|View from the open deck above the restaurant.|
|The stairwell from the lobby. I'm a magpie, I know.|