Monday, June 27, 2011

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City ~ The City of Motorbikes and this is no joke!  Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. The center of the city, District 1, is still referred to as Saigon.  There are about 9 million people and 6 million motorbikes scootin' around.  However, most of the locals if asked, would say more like 12 million, all with a motorbike.  I have to admit, it was quite intimidating to leave the hotel with both the kids! 
The sidewalks are used for parking lots for all these bikes and the streets, well, we'll just say both kids were carried across at all times.  There is really no rhyme or reason to the lines in the streets and if you think you should look left for crossing traffic, you are most likely right, but that doesn't mean a few motorbikes, or cars won't come scootin' down the wrong direction beeping their horn at you to let you know they are coming. 

The first thing I was told after arriving in Saigon, "Don't stop or backtrack while crossing the street.  Motorbikes are trying to anticipate your movements to avoid hitting you."  They aren't kidding!  It's pretty uncomfortable the first few times trying to cross the street, but it does get easier.  Just as long as you aren't pushing a stroller.  Therefore, the stroller was parked, Riley in the backpack and Makayla holding my hand or also being carried by me ~ Yes, I am sure it was quite a sight!

"maybe we should just wait for dad to come back?"
View from our room at the New World Hotel Saigon
 This is a 2-way street and only 1 car going against traffic near the bottom:

After a day of looking out the window, the kids and I decided to venture out to see some sights.  First stop, Reunification Palace, where we started to learn some of our own history and the palace where the decisions were made.  After the French signed the Geneva Agreement and withdrew from South Vietnam in 1954, the palace was handed back to the South Vietnamese Prime Minister.  At this time, Vietnam was divided into North and South.  The North, a communist government; and the south, unstable from the recent turn of government, did have a Prime Minister that did not want Communism to take over.
The people of the south didn't all agree with this Prime Minister and fled the city (Saigon) for the jungle.  This group fought against the southern Prime Minister, who seemed to hold only Saigon, and were called the "guerrillas".  This is when, the South's Prime Minister called upon the U.S. and other ally states, to help him defeat the communist government from coming south and help protect Saigon for his control. (It doesn't sound as though this man kept many friends.)
The Guerrilla's fled to the jungle, where they built their city underground in a form of tunnels for protection, as well as, to give this small group an advantage when fighting (now called Chu Chi Tunnels).  Eventually, recruits had joined the guerrillas from the North Army, this group together known as the Viet Cong. With this, the Vietnam/American War that lasted 20-years.  After America and other ally states pulled out of Vietnam, the group was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a communist government.
Reunification Palace Saigon:
 Prime Minister's Private Living quarters in Palace:
 Copy of US F5E used to bomb palace in 1975:
 1st tank to attack palace on April 30th, 1975 that ended war and united North and South Vietnam making Vietnam a communist government:
 Enjoying fresh coconut water outside of palace:

I must admit after studying this war through school and hearing about it from so many, that either fought in the war themselves, or had a parent or close family member in the war, I had no idea what the war was actually about or what brought it on.  So, forgive my complete ignorant mindset on any of this history, but I really found it interesting and disturbing at the same time, to finally learn some facts about what went down. 
I felt relieved to learn from many locals, that the U.S. was actually asked to come to Vietnam to help in some way, but feel completely ashamed seeing the damage done.  I had heard the term "Agent Orange" so many times, but never really knew what it was, what it was used for, or all the effects it left behind.  Who was the brilliant person that decided this was actually going to be used?  Whoever it was, I wonder if that person is still around to see the multi-generational effects that decision had on people all over the world. 
The War Remnants Museum is full of pictures and information showing the trail of complete destruction it left behind.  Killing everything in its path and sprayed on so many innocent civilians and military troops from both sides.  Like so many around the world, the area that it was actually used in, is still seeing babies born missing limbs, blind, deaf and other genetic diseases.  The effects of Agent Orange are expected to stay in the genes for at least 3 to 4 generations - so painful and disturbing to see this.  The War Remnants Museum is definitely not for the light hearted!  It is a very graphic and very descriptive museum of photos, stories and recovered material.

Tiger cages - cells with open tops for prisoners:


Central Post Office:
Makayla Photography

Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon:

Makayla mastering her chopstick skills eating her favorite PHO noodles: 

Guitar Shopping at Ben Thanh Market:

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