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March 3rd 2015
Published: March 4th 2015
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Saigon ParkSaigon ParkSaigon Park

Vietnam pizza snack
Saigon has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City but the locals still call it Saigon. It is a typical large city in a developing nation where you see some newer skyscrapers next to run-down tenement type housing. Scooters rule here -- perhaps the entire adult population owns one (at least adults under 50 years old). Traffic regulations are only suggestions -- scooters zip in and out, run stop lights and drive on the wrong side of the street. Once again, we took various sorts of transportation and we are still alive to tell about it. FUN!!!! We leave for the airport in a few hours for our long trip home, this is a rehash of the past 3 days.

100 years of French rule left it's mark on the architecture of this city of 8M. Notre Dame Cathedral is in the central part of the city and next to a large park. Parks and greenery are everywhere along with canals surrounding the city areas. Youth (18 - 40?) descend into the city parks each evening and sit in circles on the ground eating street food and socializing. Others cruise on their motor-bikes wearing masks -- a big social time. Literacy

Notre Dame Cathedral in the central area of the city.
rate is at 95% for the country. The average textile worker makes about $250/mo. Government workers about $150/mo along with enhanced additional perks and benefits. Teachers make $250 but many earn as much as 4 times this amount with tutoring classes for 5 - 10 students. This moonlighting is controversial as the communist government wants them all to make the same. We met a woman who makes 700 sheets of rice wraps a day which brings in about $30 daily (minus costs).

They call the war the "American War" and some of us visited the War Museum which is definitely anti-American. However, those who went were glad we did and came away with the same feeling -- war is evil no matter what side you might be on. The Cu Chi Tunnels (where the Viet Cong hid and traveled underground) were first used against the French and then expanded in length and use during the Vietnam war. Walking through the jungle area to reach the tunnels and going inside was an experience I will never forget. Eye & skin diseases were prevalent from staying underground for so long. There are two places to see the tunnels and OAT took us to ones that are further away but served as the headquarters of the Viet Cong which of course, had much more to see. There are over 25 miles of tunnels and extremely well hidden. The U.S. sent "tunnel rats" and dogs down to find people, then the Viet Cong stole soaps and clothing from our soldiers and placed them at the entrances to confuse the dogs. Viet Cong dug deeper to protect against bombs. The first level served as their eating areas and a creative system was set up to cook and filter the smoke so that it came up as steam, not smoke sans smell. The 2nd level was 10 - 20' deep and the 3rd, below 20'. One area opened out into a river where the Viet Cong had to swim under the water to reach the river and out. Air was provided with large bamboo sticks and fake termite castles that also served as a bunker. They would come out of the tunnels at night to clean selves and dig a hole for toileting. Young, our local guide's father and grandparents were Viet Cong.

People save their money in local banks where the interest rate
Saigon traffic.Saigon traffic.Saigon traffic.

4.5 M motorbikes.
recently dropped to 7% from 10 - 12%. We took a trip into the "salad bowl of Vietnam" (Mekong River area) which is where most of the rice, vegetables and fruits are grown for the country. Over the years, land owners bury their dead and erect a tomb in the middle of the rice fields (bringing luck from the spirits) -- we saw many from the bus. The dead are buried with all their clothing (or it is burned). Vietnam exports 2.2 M tons of rice each year but not organic, like Thailand and Laos have. The Mekong River area is poor with high unemployment and a major problem of girls moving to the city to become prostitutes or to live in Korea where they think conditions will be far better. The government is trying to re-educate them to understand how this is not a step up and dangerous. They estimate 1.6M Vietnamese live in the U.S. According to our guide, China is a big threat and their is disagreement within the government as to whether to support U.S. or China.

Amerasian children (American father) were highly discriminated against back in the 70's and 80's, being teased by other
Diane making rice paperDiane making rice paperDiane making rice paper

The long process includes cooking on a grill (like waffle grill), folding and drying on a bamboo rack.
children, not receiving education and often living in the streets. Now, 98% are in the U.S. many adopted as youth.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Cu Chi TunnelsCu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels

Our group looked and looked for the opening but could not find it.
Cu Chi TunnelCu Chi Tunnel
Cu Chi Tunnel

In the war room posing with Hong Kong leader in charge of the tunnels.
Water Puppet ShowWater Puppet Show
Water Puppet Show

Vietnam only place for this ancient art. Started in farming areas at celebrations of the end of the harvest. Puppeteers are also in water (wet suits) -- an interesting art form.
Cyclo rickshaw rideCyclo rickshaw ride
Cyclo rickshaw ride

Downtown Saigon.
Farewell DinnerFarewell Dinner
Farewell Dinner

Diane cutting the cake.
Hammock CafeHammock Cafe
Hammock Cafe

Coffee and hammocks at highway stop-over.

Practice fighting.
Luncheon fishLuncheon fish
Luncheon fish

A dressed fish at each table.
Mekong River villageMekong River village
Mekong River village

Houses on stilts or boat houses.

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