At my father’s suggestion, I went to the rooftop at the Rex Hotel in HCMC, Vietnam. They have a great area with a small garden and a stage for live music. The bar used to host “Five o’clock follies” for journalists during the war. I knew it would be a little more expensive for a drink but I was there for the atmosphere. As I sat down and wrote in my journal, a lady approached and asked if I would like to join her and her boss at their table. I had run into them on the elevator. I decided why not and moved to join them. I had a wonderful evening and stayed a lot longer than I had originally planned but it was great!
The first museum I visited in HCMC was the Reunification Palace. A fun fact is that a bomb was dropped on it in 1975 but missed its target. The pilot who missed is now Vice President of Vietnam airlines because he was the only one who could drive a Boeing aircraft back then.
The palace hasn’t been used as a residence since the 1970s and is currently used as a museum. The tour includes the residence and a bunker.
The War Remnants Museum was a real eye opener for me as an America It definitely shames the U.S. for even getting involved in the war.
70-100 million liters of toxic chemicals were dropped on the Vietnamese between 1961 and 1971. This includes Agent Orange, which not only had devastating effects back then but continues to now and will continue for generations to come. It stays in people’s systems, disfiguring and deforming their children. The photos were really hard to look at. The chemicals also destroy the ecosystem. One thing that was nice to see was a section on protests in the U.S. For instance, protests in D.C. and the shootings at Kent State. Additionally that was a section on photographers killed in the war.
I arrived in the afternoon and took off on a walking tour around the city, stopping at the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office, and the waterfront.
The next day I took a Vespa tour around the city. It was amazing to zoom through the city. My eyes upwards, seeing what is around. As a taller individual, it’s hard to see things out of a vehicles windows as it involves an awkward head dip and twist so to see the city completely unobstructed was great!
First stop was a park with a large gathering of caged birds. One can buy crickets to feed them. We set the crickets free instead. It’s thought that a female bird can “train” 4-5 males how to sing and behave. Gathering the birds together provides them with friendship as well.
Next was the intersection where the monk set himself on fire to protest the treatment of the Buddhists. Diem was the Catholic ruler of southern Vietnam and made it hard for Buddhists to practice. He put the army in front of the temples, allowing no Buddhists in and no monks out. When the monk’s body was collected, they discovered that his heart didn’t burn. I started asking about religion and religious tolerance at this point but was pulled aside and told that it is illegal to talk about how religion and politics mix. The guide showed me her ID card and it states one’s religion. She had no religion listed, even though she was Buddhist, as it is better to list no religion so you can find a job easier.
We walked through the flower market with beautiful roses, sunflowers, etc. surrounding us in bulk.
We stopped at a temple and a pagoda and I was taught the difference between the two. Pagodas worship Buddha and Buddha figures will have a central place in the layout. Temples worship a God of something. There may be Buddha figures but they will not play as central of a role as in pagodas.
The tour brought us to the other side of the river. It is mainly swamp land but there is a plan to develop it. Three bridges/tunnels are done with two more on the way. There are ten million people in Saigon and they are looking for a place to put them all.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is made out of 100 percent French materials and supposed to look like the Parisian one but it does not. The Post Office was designed by the same person who did the Eiffel Tower. The floor, ceiling, and walls are original.