War remnants and another meeting with the Mekong
Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
103Trip End Apr 05, 2006
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And how glad I was that I did
At about 2.30pm, our cyclo drivers dropped us at the War Remnants Museum, where the atrocities of the Vietnam War are graphically documented through hundreds of photographs, plus deformed foetuses in jars and replicas of internment cells. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), the one-sided, anti-American presentation is terribly propagandist, and there is no recognition that atrocities were committed on both sides. The complexities of the war, and the full scope of the human and environmental disaster it caused, are not really captured by the main display; instead the focus is on the torture of individuals.
However, the excellent photojournalism exhibition called 'Requiem', and an exhibition of photographs by a Japanese photographer (whose name escapes me now) chronicling the after-effects of the war, really add dimension and a broader human perspective. In all I spent over two hours there. Having returned from their tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, Rich and Deanna still had time to visit the War Remnants Museum as well
In the early evening, after a few beers at a sidewalk cafe, we all headed down to Ben Thanh, the night food market near our hotel. So far Rich and I have found that, wherever we've been, the informal food stalls around markets and on the sidewalks of local shopping streets are really the best places to enjoy authentic, cheap meals. And the standards of hygiene are pretty good too... or at least, we've never been ill. If it's up to us we'd never set foot in a conventional restaurant again.
The next day Deanna, Rich and I were up early, ready for a 7am departure to the Mekong Delta. We ended up waiting... and waiting... and waiting. After half an hour we phoned the tour operator, who sounded a little confused but nevertheless arranged for a driver to collect us. In the end we left an hour and a half late, and were concerned that we would not be taken to see the floating markets, as we had requested. This turned out to be the case - we were taken around on a very conventional itinerary of village, fruit orchard, candy factory etc. with not a floating market in sight.
Though it was a far cry from what we had requested, we still enjoyed the day tremendously
Our friendly guide (who took the opportunity to practice his English pronunciation on us, constantly asking "Am I saying it right?") took us on a walk through some orchards and on a ride through a canal on a small dugout canoe. We visited a coconut candy factory and a bee farm, where Deanna bravely draped the resident python around her neck! After a lovely lunch of elephant-ear fish (presented whole), pigeon and prawns, we reluctantly boarded the boat back to My Tho; we were back in Saigon by 4.30pm. The day was just too short, and unfortunately we did not see the part of the Delta we were really interested in. But hey-ho, still a lovely day.
For our final evening in Saigon, and in Vietnam, we headed out to a local eatery where scorpions, rats, snakes and maggots were just some of the delicacies on offer. Having come face-to-face with sad-looking snakes, turtles and weasels destined for eating at the restaurant in the Mekong Delta, the two of us were not that keen on exotic meats, and stuck safely to chicken and goat. A few of us girls rounded off the evening with a glass of wine at the 23rd floor bar of the Sheraton Hotel... very posh, with a fabulous view of the city lights!