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Published: April 16th 2018
Today; sightseeing seeing in Ho Chi Minh City. The little I know about Vietnam come from studying the War in politics classes (and from watching Miss Saigon). So after breakfast, we start by walking to the War Remnants Museum.
It’s only a mile which doesn’t sound too onerous. But we have underestimated the insane heat and crazy motorbike drivers. It soon becomes clear that I don’t have the mental fortitude for crossing Vietnamese roads. Eventually I develop a routine – wait till the pedestrian light goes green, shut my eyes and cross. It doesn’t hugely affect my chances of dying and at least I can’t see what’s coming.
Going to the War Remnants Museum straight after breakfast was a mistake. It’s a truly harrowing experience and keeping my fried eggs down is quite an effort. Outside and downstairs are plenty of old military vehicles and equipment. As you ascend, it’s mostly photographs. Horrific, harrowing photos of war, death, mutilation, destruction. After that, more photos. A section on the devastation caused by the tens of thousands of unexploded bombs the Americans left behind. The cluster devices, designed to explode and send out hundreds of pieces of shrapnel, are small and
yellow and shiny and were often mistaken for toys by children. Last, and possibly worst of all, a section on the effects of Agent Orange, a gene damaging herbicide, on those exposed to it and their unborn children. It is truly horrific.
We leave and walk past some of the old 19th Century French colonial buildings; Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office (here a war memorial is ironically flanked by a McDonalds) and the People’s Committee Building - the former Hotel de Ville. Opposite is a huge flag festooned plaza with a statue of Ho Chi Minh at the centre. We continue to the HCMC Museum.
This former palace covers the history of the city and is very interesting. It’s also a popular place for wedding photos, so we have to keep ducking and diving to avoid unintentional photobombing.
We have lunch and replace the huge amount of fluids we have lost in a restaurant opposite the Independence Palace then enter the palace itself. It’s untouched since the 1970s and above ground, it’s like straying into the set of an Austin Powers movie. There’s a funky card room, a plush cinema and a helipad on the roof.
Underground are the presidential war rooms.
We head back to the hotel to cool down and rehydrate before joining child number one for a scrumptious Vietnamese dinner. Followed by cocktails on a 7th floor rooftop bar decorated with fairy lights and lanterns. A little sea of tranquility to relax in, and observe the melee on the street below.
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