Saigon, Viet Nam
10° 45' N 106° 39' E
Nov 26, 2005 07:31
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Text written in: English

It's all about the war

As I sat down to write this I noticed this african american guy walk into reception, thought he was asking for a room, then I hear 'excuse me' and he said he had seen me trying on sunglasses across town (long way away and at least an hour ago!) and I was like 'ok' because after that I had a bite to eat, wrote a little in a cafe, moseyed round the shops and then it started raining so I walked quickly back to the hotel, including a long alleyway. He asked me where I was from, what was my name, how long I'd been here etc, and I didn't know what his point was, he just said I looked like someone he arrived with. I said I was hoping to leave tomorrow and he asked if he could take me out to celebrate (?). I politely refused (thinking um you followed me for an hour across town without me knowing? sure!) and he left. So wierd. Surely in that hour he would've realised I wasn't his friend, or come up and said hi if he thought I was? To think I didn't even notice him. Weirdo. Then again I AM wearing my NZ Music Month target t-shirt which doesn't help. Also I wore it to  the shooting range at the tunnels today, ha. Didn't notice until a wierd American man with a big girl's bum and hips, kinda perched forward, with long fake fingernails (?!) came up to me and told me perhaps it wasn't a good idea to stand there with this t-shirt on. Bad day for the t-shirt.

Anyway I quite like Saigon. It's not as cute as Hanoi but it's more cosmopolitan and even though it's home to 6 million people and Hanoi only 3.5 million, it's not really as cramped with motorbikes and the tooting is not as constant.

Yesterday I had two hours sleep after a long sleepless bus ride overnight and then got up and had something to eat then went to the War Remnants Museum. It was pretty horrific. First I watched a documentary all about the effects of defoliants (Agent Orange) on the kids of the country, and now I'm 100% certain the kids I saw in Hoi An at the orphanage were victims of this. Especially the boy with the strange colouring I couldn't explain. Then we looked through heaps of war photos and ones of journalists killed and executed before another large room full of photos and preserved babies with birth defects in large bottles. Also kids drawings of their hopes for peace and a quick look at the Tiger Cages where mamy prisoners were kept in shitty conditions, and the guillotine that was used to be-head people and photos to prove it. At the end there was a room full of propaganda showing support for Vietnam from various countries. I was thinking at the time I'd be so ashamed to be an American visiting that place. Look what they've done.

Today I went on a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels built by the south Vietnamese during the war. It is a simple yet complex (in craftyness) tunnel complex stretching to the Cambodian border. The Vietnamese made some brilliantly brutal traps and the whole thing is very clever considering they didn't have much in the way of the latest weapons. I went down part of the tunnels and had to crouch as low as I could and shuffle along. Lucky I'm small because the man in front of me had to get on his hands and knees. The top and sides were still scraping my back and arms. I don't know how you fitted in there Mark! A bit claustrophobic when the people in front blocked the lights so I couldn't see in front of me. The bomb craters left behind are massive pits. It was also mozzie mania so I'm expecting some bites to pop up later dammit.

Just before it started raining it was 29 degrees... I must be adjusting because even the I feel the need to take a jumper in case it gets any colder. It's a little bit warmer than the center where I've been for the past week though. I'm looking forward to some beach time at the end if I can work it. Heard from the volunteer people today and they're still trying to set it all up for me. If it doesn't work out I'll head back to Thailand where everything is so easy peasy and I can relax in peace on a beach. Otherwise I might see if I can wrangle a few days after volunteering. I think I might die a long slow frozen death when I arrive in London.

I saw on the news last night that Gary Glitter has been arrested at a beach near here for being a dirty bastard again. Good job. In the cafe I was in before a Vietnam version of Wheel of Fortune was playing ha. And the music videos are hilarious - they look like a home video and lack imagination - just being taken around town while the western-looking teens sing tacky ballads. I've heard Jason Donovan's 'Sealed with a Kiss' several times on radio, but the local version. And the local soaps are even more hilarious!! Think home video meets really BAD dramatic but stunted scripts. Reminds me of my childhood really...

I went out for dinner before and was sitting at my table when the usual vendors come around...'you buy book', 'you buy tiger balm', 'you buy cigarette' and then the lighter man came. 'You buy lighter' and I say no thanks and continue reading my new lonely planet cambodia i got for $6 and then he says 'cocaine?' and I look up thinking he's kidding, and he carries on 'marijuana?', 'ecstacy?' and his eyebrows are shooting up and down like 'yeah i'm cool, I got the loot, you know you want it' and I burst out laughing at him and he just stands there, stoney faced and eyebrows going flat out... I can't stop laughing and manage a 'no thanks' and he leaves.

I leave for Cambodia on Monday.

Photos / videos of "It's all about the war":

Child's painting, War Remnants Museum Painting caption, War Remnants Museum Flag, War Remnants Museum X-ray of war shrapnel, War Remnants Museum War Remnants Museum War Remnants Museum Tortured man, War Remnants Museum Caption for tortured man, War Remnants Museum War Remnants Museum Cu Chi tunnels Cu Chi tunnels Cu Chi tunnels Man made traps, Cu Chi tunnels Man made trap, Cu Chi tunnels Cu Chi tunnels Saigon memorial Saigon park Ben Thanh Market