Day 3, Ho Chi Minh city

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Today we woke up after about 8 hours of sleep with another blue sky day in Ho Chi Minh City, 76 degrees, 72 percent humidity, no wind. A view out the back window of our hotel.

We had some infrastructure problems today. Steaming hot water coming out of both the HOT and COLD water faucets and our air conditioner was on the ‘frtiz’, not cooling. I was busy working on the journal, and since TommyH religiously watches ‘This Old House’, we decided he would take care of the problems by talking the universal language of home repair with the staff. Contacting the front desk resulted in one gent coming up to our eighth floor room to work on the AC. He ‘worked’ the AC remote for about 30 seconds and the unit started blowing cold air again. Problem solved: The problem? Two old Americans that can’t operate a remote control!!! Another guy came up shortly after to fix the water problem. He was in the bathroom turning water on and off for about 5 minutes and soon declared the problem solved. The problem? Not sure but he did get us our cold water back again!!!

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Lois, Eileen, Ellsworth and I decided to head to the War Remnant Museum, a facility built by the Vietnamese to explain the war from their perspective. We decided to take a taxi over to the museum and probably walk back to the hotel. Total taxi charge for the four of us 13,000 dong, about 50 cents, USD!!!

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We spent about 3 hours at the museum and it was a life changing experience. Here, we as Americans, saw the war from a completely different perspective than the Walter Cronkite reports of the ‘daily body count’ on the nightly news, which was widely recognized as the militaries measure of success.

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Outside there was a a fair amount of captured US military hardware, all in pristine shape, on display.

In all the journaling I have done through the years,  this experience caused me the most internal strife on what to ‘report’. It’s a long ways from reporting on what kind of place we stayed in overnight, what great desserts we had and how the biking has been. Once we got inside to the exhibits it was mind numbing. It showed a side of the US military that is hard to imagine. Sure some may have a ‘propaganda’ slant to it from the Vietnamese but it is hard to deny what one sees in photos and the capturing of the detailed information. I really struggled on whether to present anything further than the photo above as a report on our visit but feel I need to share some of what I saw inside. So here are a few of the photos I took.

For those of you who do not want to see or read about our experience, click here to skip down to the next section.

As American’s, I think we like to collectively think we are different from the rest of the world  but when it comes down to it . . . people are people. We are all innately good and just want to have family, and a safe, secure life. War can changed that I think, regardless of nationality or governmental beliefs. Taking an 18 year farm boy from the middle of Iowa, sending him to basic training, making him a killing machine where within five months he is on the front lines seeing and experiencing things he has never dreamed of in his worst nightmares, has got to have a life long effect on you. Seeing your new family of ‘squad members’ being slaughter could bring out the worst in any person, reducing your survival to the basic instinct of . . . staying alive. It probably has been happening since the Revolutionary war and every conflict we have been involved with since.  How anyone who has seen the atrocities of war could ever return to a normal life is beyond belief. I guess it really speaks to the resilience of the human mind and spirit to leave it behind, as best you can, and move on with your life. Hard to describe . . . and I am really at a loss for how to put it into words. Read the photo captions

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The sewer where the children were hiding . . .

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The museum had four topic areas, one being the results of the Agent Orange spraying operations. Interesting in how the military picks names for operations to maybe simplify or minimalize the notion. The spraying operation was known as ‘Ranch Hand’  . . . I guess like clearing brush!!! Eventually of 25% of the country was sprayed,. 11% of the area more than once. The room of photos showing the aftermath of  juvenile birth defects due to Agent Orange was unnerving. It almost made me sick to my stomach and I left the room after viewing about a quarter o the displays.

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We left the museum with heavy hearts . . . lots of discussion on what we had just experienced.

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On the street are were many food vendors working off the back of there scooters. These ‘Waffle Men’ were very common, cooking their waffles over a little charcoal burner.

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Ellwsorth lead us through the Central Park area he had walked through the day before . . .

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. . . which had some really interesting palms!!!

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We were on the way to the largest indoor market in Ho Chi Minh city, on a mission with Lois to find her a new pair of ‘jammies’, having forgotten hers back in CA.

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We went by a store where the staff had been cleaning something and were carting the wash receptacle outside to dispose of the water . . . down the drain!!!

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Tommy H, (Ellsworth), wants us to change hotels. He misses his kitties!!!!

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New scooters for sale, still in the box!!!

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Although scooters seem to have taken over the lowly bicycle for local transportation, bikes are still used for the ‘heavy hauling’!!!

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The market was something to see. A full city block in size, with hundreds, maybe thousands of vendors. The merchants are very tactile, reaching out an touching your shoulder or side, encouraging you to stop and buy something. One young girl poked TommyH and said ‘Big Belly’ . . . he did not stop there to buy anything!!!

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About a quarter of the market was vegetables including these Durians which are one of several ‘stinky’ fruits sold in the local area.

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So bad, that if you are caught with any remnants of one in your room there s an extra 50 USD cleaning fee!!!

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We walked by a large park selling trees including these flowering quince which are evidently a good luck purchase made during the Chinese new Year

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. . . lots of orange trees . . .

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. . . and the Vietnamese have developed a new cultivar of grapefruit that is grown with it’s own plastic bag attached. Brilliant!!!

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Eileen had told us about the ’High Tea’, offered from 3 until 5 pm at our hotel, so we all proceeded down for some strawberry tea and assorted yummies. Notice ‘pinkies’ extended while sipping the tea. Got to fit in you know!!!!

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Before you know it was time to eat again. We had such a nice experience at restaurant we went to last night, we decided to go there again and Eileen agreed to join us. Lois needed to ‘veg out’ after the jammie market shopping experience!!! The streets were jammed again, and as usual, if the traffic is not flowing fast enough, which it rarely is for many, they take to the sidewalk to pass cars and other scooters to move ahead . . .

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. . . a pedestrian REALLY needs to be on the look out, especially when they are coming up from behind. We’ve learned you just need to keep moving . . . DO NOT STOP. The riders are planning on navigating around you, using your present speed an trajectory in deciding their route. Stopping screws the whole thing up!!!

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We got to the restaurant and I REALLY had a hard time deciding between the two versions of stomach being offered . . .

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. . . so instead, had the soft tofu which was REALLY delicious. Soft gooey pieces of tofu, fried in a light crispy, batter. I REALLY have to get the recipe!!!

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There are what seem to be thousands of ‘scooter officers’, like the two picture on the left of the photo above that handle the parking of scooters along public spaces. Not sure who employees or pays them but they do bring an order to the chaos!!!

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You got to go with the flow, DO NOT STOP!!! There are traffic lights with pedestrian ‘Walk’, ‘Don’t Walk’ flashing lights which are generally observed by the sea of scooters but on roundabouts, like this one, it’s every person for themselves!! TommyH and I made it across while Eileen hesitated and had to wait for the next ‘break’ (which doesn’t mean NO SCOOTERS . . . just fewer scooters’)

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I was able to capture here successful crossing!!!!

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She made it!!!! Great night out and soon it was time for  . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzz!

One thought on “Day 3, Ho Chi Minh city”

  1. Glad you made it safe and sound, and that you’ve had sometime to see the city before you start biking. Be safe and thinking of you…love ya!

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