Vietnam, land of Communism?
Trip Start Aug 25, 2003
55Trip End Jul 18, 2004
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As I said, we didn't experience this persistance in the south, it was another phenomenon altogether - driving. For that Ho Chi Minh City is definitely the worst. The staggering amount of motorcycles is the worst we've seen yet, but what's really scary is that at intersections they don't even seem to slow down, it's just "beep beep" and through. Roundabouts are even worse because genereally there's not much to "go 'round." Maybe something the size of a refrigerator. This seems to cause more confusion than a normal intersection. Of course the whole thing baffles me so what do I know? In Dalat, we saw one person actually walking through a insanely busy roundabout while reading a book.
We did manage to catch a few interesting sights around Ho Chi Minh City, the most memorable being the War Remnants Museaum and the other being the tunnels of Cu Chi. The War Remnants Museaum gave another view into the what I know of the Vietnam war. Much of it was focused on journalists that covered the war - from both sides. Sarah and I continue to marvel at the fact that we have recieved no bad feelings from any Vietnamese(we get more from western travelers!) especially given the portrayal the museaum (and I would imagine some Vietnamese) has of the US. People that we've encountered freely offer the hardships they had due to the war and still proclaim they love Americans.
The Cu Chi tunnels were built and maintained from 1947 through the beginning of the Vietnam War. They were mostly destroyed during the war, but some were rebuilt to show the living conditions of the people who used these tunnels. My view of the confusion during the war became more real as our guide explained that these tunnels were built by southern Vietnameese who supported the north. These tunnels were only 65 km out of Saigon! After a short "documentary" (the winners write the history books, right?) on the people of Cu Chi's efforts in the war we not only go to see these tunnels, but crawl through them ourselves - of course they had been widened for tourists! After a few forays into some shorter (and wider) tunnels we saw the method they had for entry. A Vietnamese man demonstrated the entry method - slowly stepping into this tiny hole in the ground with the lid over his head - and then gave us a chance to try. I fit all the way to my shoulders and then I was stuck. Despite the fact that I write about food alot, I really haven't gained any weight - honestly! Next time we have a good connection I'll post the picture. Our final trek was throught a tunnel 120 meters long, as deep as 10 meters, and, we were told, much closer to original size. We had the option to get out at 60 meters, but neither Sarah nor I heard the guide correctly and ended up crawling the whole length! Even knowing that we could've turned around (well, gone backwards) I couldn't escape that feeling of claustrophobia. It is cramped, hot, humid, and extremely dark. Putting out of my head the fear of being trapped under 10 meters of earth down there was hard to do. It was an experience I definitely won't forget (even if I wanted to). Fresh air never felt so good!
In travelling from Phnom Penh to Hoi An we also got to see some incredible landscape through the Mekong Delta (by boat and bus). The trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Hoi An has taken us through cool mountain towns (we stopped off in Dalat for a few days) and through some beautiful country side with mountains walling it in. I know I have written before about the scenery in SE Asia, but Vietnam has some of the best we've seen. (I think I have a problem, I really could look at rice fields all day).