I’m in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) for the weekend, before I head to the Mekong Delta area and Tra Vinh University for the week. Since I was only going to have two days in HCMC and I was on my own, I opted to book a few tours. I booked a City Tour that included the War Remnants Museum, the Presidential Palace, the Post Office (designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame), and a trip to Chinatown. I also booked an evening river cruise with dinner; and a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels just north of the City.
First up on Saturday afternoon was the War Remnants Museum. I had been warned…This museum opened in 1975, just after the fall of Saigon…Many of the exhibits document the “war crimes” of the Americans. They are not easy to look at.
One exhibit, entitled “Requiem” is a tribute to the photographers killed during the American War (as is it known here) and includes many of their final photos.
I also met a few teenagers performing there who can be counted among the victims of this war. Born in the 1990s and still affected by birth defects caused by the lingering effects of Agent Orange. The piano player was born without eyes…
Until North Vietnamese troops rolled a tank through the gates of the Presidential Palace it was the center for military operations in Saigon. Today it is officially known as the Reunification Palace, but no one here calls it that…In this city it is still the Presidential Palace.
So, I was taking pictures of the ten phones in the “operations room” in the basement of the Palace and our Vietnamese guide asked if I remembered using these types of phones. After I chastised him for suggesting I was old enough to remember using rotary phones, I admitted that “yes”, I knew how to dial them…”So, what are the letters for?”, he asked, “They couldn’t text, could they?” ..Damned if I know …Why were there letters on rotary phones?? (You know…ABC on the 2, DEF on the 3, …) …”Well, I said…you could call a TAXI (8294)” and tried to explain a very lame use for the letters…” They would have done better with your iPhone.” he said, as he walked away.
The Post Office is across from a rarity here…a Catholic Church…This is the Notre Dame Cathedral …
And Chinatown in Saigon dates back 350 years (not so impressive in this part of the world). Here’s an interesting fact : During the Vietnam War, soldiers and deserters from the United States Army maintained a thriving black market at Cholon (Chinatown), trading in various American and especially U.S Army-issue items.
After a fact-filled afternoon, I had 45 minutes to rest before my “River and Dinner” cruise. This was a treat! I was taken aboard La Perle de l’Orient and shown to a table open to the Saigon River…the menu listed six items and, no, I didn’t have to choose…I got them all…
- Lotus Salad
- Fried fillet of fish with fennel
- Sauté shrimp with garlic
- Grilled pork
- Fried rice
I may have to become one of those people who take pictures of their food …watch for it…
There was entertainment on board as well…And, did I mention that this dinner cruise cost ~$35?…Dinner for one, and three hours to think about the value of things.