In continuing with my desire to visit nearby countries when in Brunei I thought of Vietnam when I had a few days off ,but this time I wanted a leisurely holiday and so just opted for one city ...Ho Chi Minh formerly Saigon .( Paris of the East )
The Royal brunei airlines took less than an hour to fly to Vietnam from Brunei but it reached late that day and by the time I could reach the hotel it was almost 9pm at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport
I took Vientanne taxis recommended as good though a bit more expensive ,everything was in American dollars as Vietnamese money did not have much value and one needed to pay huge amounts .
My Hotel was in a popular tourist area of the city .Pham Ngu Lao Street
I had earlier talked to a lady travel agent who had booked for me an early morning Chu Chi tunnel trip the next day and thinking I had cancelled my trip promptly cancelled the booking ,she made a couple of calls and got me back in the tour and told me to be ready by seven in the morning
Ho Chi Minh is a mobike city
one could see thousands of mopeds crowding the roads ,both riders and pillion riders are dutifully helmeted ,there are several moped taxis which could take you to any place in city for a fraction of charges one needs to pay for a taxi but one needs to have a bit of balance to sit on it as it would zip through which one gains by experience ,i went for several short trips and for one long one where i was taken to the newly developing city on the other isde of a huge bridge .
The 1969 to 1975 Vietnam war was at height of the cold war era
Ho chi Minh of north Vietnam or Vietcong was in a civil war with south Vietnam
N Vietnam being in the communist bloc was helped by Russia and China hence the USA helped south Vietnam
USA directly entered the war in 1969 as north Vietnam seemed to be winning the war and they wanted to contain communism from spreading .
USA had superior air power their army had good weapons enough supplies unlike the Viet kong or the north Vietnamese
But Viet kong used guerrilla tactics
They were aware of American air superiority and land power hence in the border near Cambodia they built tunnels like a spider web for an area around 250 sq Km
There were three levels of tunnels
It had storehouses kitchens meeting rooms and false entrances
Some were narrow one had to crawl
Some were deep
Entrances were tiny holes as most Vietnamese are small made and could slip into a tunnel with ease Americans were huge and had difficulty to trace them
Deeper tunnels had noxious gases and no oxygen ,one would get poisoned there
Vietcong lived in such conditions they mostly ate tapioca or even spiders worms snake etc
They laid clever traps for Americans to fall and kept sharp spikes below tinged with chicken shit to infect American wounds .
They would allow American soldiers to advance then emerge from closed camouflaged tunnels kill Americans and slip back into earth
Like dangerous snakes one never knew from where Viet cong would spring from .
Americans used chemicals like agent orange for defoliating forests causing harm to many over three generations .
They used sniffer dogs to smell Vietcong in tunnels
The trained dogs did find the tunnel openings
Viet cong used American shampoo to divert the dogs
Like this they demoralized and crippled the American army
Finally America left Vietnam and the victorious Viet cong formed the country called the socialist republic of Vietnam
is father of nation
Chu chi tunnels are to be seen and experienced
They allow one to get into tunnel and crawl to next
I felt claustrophobic hence didnt do it ,
there were models of different tunnel entrances where hidden spikes tipped with poison lay trap for the Yankees
At one place we were served tapioca to show us what the Vietcong ate during the war .
Another place where one could relive the horrific war was the War Repartition museum which had neatly apportioned floors depicting the war chronologically and how it unfolded ,some the graphic pictures
|I tried to snug up on this old lady by telling her that she wa slike my mother and should give me a discount for the tender coconut ,she was quite smart in telling me how can you ask for a discount from a mother in fact you should pay more !|
one found young students in pioneer uniforms like in the Soviet era crowding parks during sunday
in the evening I went to a cruise in the River Saigon ,though given a prime table in the front the food was depressing and the vodka bitter though the dancers made up for the depressions and the cruise sights of course
|Tamil temple near Ben Tham market|
|pagoda in Buddhist monastery|
|Noartre dame cathedral|
|ingredients of PHO|
|the photo that moved the world later the girl would grow up in America|
|point blank shooting of traitors during war|
of Viet cong torture and the damage caused by the agent orange and the napalm Bomb was disturbing ,how man could inflict such evil on each other of power and money one failed to understand ,the museum had live tanks ,war plane mounted in its front compound .
Another place where the war is remembered is the rehabilitation center for those who are affected by agent orange ,even the later generations born have several birth defects like loss of limbs etc and have to be rehabilitated by the Government ,in this center all this was explained to us by an young man who himself had been afflicted by agent orange at birth ,even US Air force pilots who carried the agent orange to be dumped were affected by serious diseases for all their lives and many Vietnamese veterans suffered psychological and physical ailments
was able to get some technical facts too ,the show itself was on the village and party related activities of the country in an earlier era but was well executed by a talented bunch of actors where a lot of bamboo was used in the choreography at the end of the show the actors would pose themselves with the audienceH
Ho Chi Minh is just a small window to a big country ,there are so many other places like the Mekong Delta North Vietnamese city of Hanoi which have their own uniqueness but from what I could gather in my short stay is my respect for the resilience of the Vietnamese who had not only recovered from the ravages of an unjust cruel war they have also overcome that to achieve great strides in their progress toward a modern nation ,i was very impressed by their tourist attractions the glimmering city and the positive vibration seen in this young country ,there is lot more to come from Vietnam take my word