Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sai Gon

I'm back to playing catch up about the Viet Nam trip.  It's a very good thing too as it will keep me from making a rant about JIKS administration.

The most uncomfortable ride of this whole adventure was the six hour sleeping bus from Da Lat to Saigon where I was in the front on the top row in the middle of the bus and it felt like a roller coaster. On the other buses I'd been able to pick my seat.  Since this seat was assigned, I was outta luck. The bus was meant to be a seven hour trip, leaving at 2300 and arriving at 0600.  Instead it departed at 2300 and arrived at 0430. Danielle and I were both bleary eyed, but managed to get a taxi to our hostel.  We had a booking but it was obviously too early to check in. We dropped our bags and drug around Sai Gon until twelve.  I say drug in the literal sense.  We were literal zombies.  I remember seeing the postal building, the opera house, the outside of some buildings and memorials. 

The postal building is very pretty inside.  Several things in Sai Gon looked like they fell straight out of France.

Like Notre Dame Cathedral. That's it's name.  Just like in Paris.

I acknowledge (esp to Coco who loves Sai Gon) that this may have had an impact on my impression of Sai Gon.   I've heard many people claim that you are either a Ha Noi person or a Sai Gon person, but also that it seems to make a difference if you start in the north or the south.  I contend I am definitely a Ha Noi person.  I loved the smaller town with it's center wrapped around the northern end of the lake.  Sai Gon in comparison has a "big city" feel.  It's geographically and by population much larger than Ha Noi. It was harder to meet people there, though I still did.  The hostels were nothing special (where the one in Ha Noi was amazing).  I think the cards ended up hard against Sai Gon.

During our drag around town, we went into a botanical gardens and zoo.  Now, you regular readers will know how I feel about zoos.  I didn't mean to go to this one.  I thought it was two distinct entities - a zoo and a garden.  We started out alright with a temple, then a fountain and garden.  Without realizing it we traipsed through an aviary and smack into the zoo. I whined and cringed through until back to back seeing an elephant on a 20 ft chain with no water in his swimming pool even thought it was very hot, and immediately after seeing a flooded deer enclosure.  Their paddock was right next to the river and water was seeping in.  There were no trees, no dirt, only mud.  I have seen wild deer.  There are deer native to the Pacific Northwest (of the USA).  They do not live out in the open in the mud.  I drew the line and had to go.  I'll reiterate, I'm off zoos.
The most worth while part of Sai Gon (other than our departure) was a day tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels.  They were made and used my the local Southern Vietnamese and the Viet Cong during the war against the Americans. There were three levels of tunnels; level A was 1-3 meters deep, level B was 3-5 meters deep and level C was 6-10 meters deep.  During attacks soldiers would be on level A, townsmen on level B and women and children on level C.  I walked through part of level A.  Even considering that Vietnamese are smaller than most westerners, it was a close fit. The lower tunnels would flood during the wet season.  Babies would suffocate there as well as the air was too thin. There were examples of the booby traps constructed and used against the Americans.  Just like most of the museums, the propaganda, especially in photo captions, was thick. I was of two minds here.  My heart ached to see the conditions the people endured during the war, thinking it was their only hope to survive. I also was a bit horrified at the trap and snares used against American soldiers,  my compatriots. I don't endorse the use of such methods again anyone.  Just as I was torn in reading about the war when I was in Sai Gon.  It made me reflect.

Tunnel Entrance

With the door in place it was impossible to see there was a tunnel at all.

This was an entry to the upper level of tunnels.  It was about two and a half feet high inside. 

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