After such a relaxing week in Mui Ne, on Sunday evening we returned to urban Vietnam and although Hanoi was a vibrant, crowded city, Saigon was two Hanois put together. As soon as we stepped off the bus you could feel the atmosphere of the place. It was exactly how you would imagine an Asian city to be like, from the neon signs and bright advertisements to the sounds of Asian music and horns beeping all around to the smells of all kinds of Asian cooking to the classic Vietnamese custom – people trying to sell you stuff.
So the four of us checked into our hotels and had a nice dinner and a couple of drinks. We were all in agreed appreciation that this city was seriously cool. While relaxing on the balcony of our restaurant, the city moved at a million miles an hour around us while we were totally chilled out enjoying the food… and cheap beer of course. So because of my impulsive booking of flights to Laos for the 28th, two days later, we knew we only had one full day in Saigon so we would have to get all the good stuff in.
We awoke on the Monday morning and the air was so humid and dry, it would be a pleasure going to the museums just to get a bit of air con. But the museums were probably the most remarkable and jaw dropping we have ever seen. The first museum revolved around the evolution of Vietnam over the past 200 years in many different areas such as culture and industry. Pretty interesting but we wanted to learn more about the Vietnam War. We headed on to the War Remnants museum and as soon as you step in the door of the museum you get hit with shocking images of the legacy the United States has left on Vietnam. The ground floor exhibition was named the ‘Agent Orange’ exhibition, a collection of photos taken by a famous photographer during and after the Vietnam war. While obliterating the country with bombs during the 60s and the 70s, the chemical used by the Americans to destroy forests, infrastructure and buildings in turn left devastating effects for many innocent Vietnamese and Americans who were poisoned. Their children and even their children’s children would most likely be born with mutations and deformations and some so bad their lives would not last more than a few years.
There were still 3 floors of the museum above us… The pictures were not as jaw-dropping on the above floors but still so moving and you could not help but feel empathy for this country that is still overcoming the pain and suffering experienced just 40 years ago. The suffering inflicted by the Americans soldiers on the Vietnamese was simply appalling and I am not talking about the Vietnamese fighting for their country, the civilians were slaughtered without reason and many quotes indicate how the American soldiers cared not if it was a soldier, a civilian or even a child who was before them, in many cases they would kill them without hesitation. The museum was made up mainly of pictures and they tell the story of the carnage better than words ever could. Although it was quite upsetting to see the brutality of it all, experiencing things like this show you what war is like and however upsetting it may be, it is reality for many people around the world. After leaving the museum, we were walking down the road in a busy part of Saigon when we saw a child lying on a trolley on the path, a child with awful deformations just like the ones we saw in the pictures. There it was, the reality.
We were pretty quiet after leaving the museum so after a shower and a rest we headed to the main square of the city where the World Culinary Festival was on. Food from all around the world in one place – love it! After a lot of different dishes, we decided to check out the Saigon club scene, it’s not too bad! Diarmuid was just delighted getting his feet back on the dancefloor, I was just trying to enjoy my last hours with a certain someone. The drinks were horribly over-priced so being committed to the cause, Diarmuid and I climbed 3 floors every 20 minutes to the roof bar for cheaper beer, Vietnam tried to catch us out. It failed. So the next morning we had an early wake-up call, off to the airport for a flight to Vientiane in Laos. We may have barely been in Saigon 36 hours but we loved it… I didn’t one to leave one bit, but for other reasons. Goodnight Vietnam.