Check out this bicycle

Pictures of Saigon
Statue of Uncle Ho (Ho chi Minh)
Exercise machines in the public park
Former South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace from the 60’s
In the government building, the map/strategic room – I love those old phones.
Saigon map in the Central Post Office
A bicycle on the street!
Lunch at Ngon restaurant, with my new friend, Phillips. My first drink from a real coconut. It was awesome!

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War tourism

I felt very privileged today. I have never lived through war, famine, poverty or bore witness to it directly except for my participation in paying taxes which has directly or indirectly affected and funded other governments and people’s.

Today I visited the Cu Chi tunnels. Originally a village not far from Saigon where guerrillas (locals) aided the Vietnamese military against the Americans. The tunnels at its height stretched from Saigon to Cambodia.
The tunnels were used to hide from Americans while they were bombing. I went in one tunnel to get a feel for what it was like to be underground and it was very uncomfortable to say the least. To be in the dark for hours or days, crawling on your hands and knees. The systems were complex and deep. I am told people stayed underground for several years, but that doesn’t make sense to me because I thought they were temporary shelters.

Pictures from Cu Chi (traps for American military, a tourist in the lookout, tunnels) and one photo of the Vietnamese military (navy). We were on a boat and they said we had to turn around because they were conducting military exercises.

I have to admit, Vietnam has not been very welcoming to me. The response from people when they learn I am American is one of resentment. The anger is because I am American and Chinese American. The Vietnamese do not have good relations with China. The hostility is in their eyes, their response, body language and intonation. It makes me wonder, with that logic, why are they not mad with the French?

In fun news, I met for the first time someone from Norway and girls from Indonesia. I am sitting in Saigon in a very air conditioned coffee shop sipping a iced green tea latte. It is winter in Vietnam but the humidity and the heat are melting me. Tomorrow the war museum, lunch, them to Bangkok, Thailand. 20121117-202248.jpg20121117-202236.jpg20121117-202216.jpg20121117-202225.jpg

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Birth control is sitting on this flight

The Danang airport was surprisingly shiny and new. I would have guessed it was built in the last year. It looked promising. I was taking the last flight to Saigion on JetStar. The price of the ticket was $60, the taxes were $49. I initially planned on taking the train to Saigion but the front desk manager said it would take 20+ hours and the flight would be 1 hour. The price would be comparable. I guess that is why everyone on the flight is local. Once on the flight I was also wondering if this aircraft is purposefully built for Asian people. It is a larger aircraft, there are 3 seats on the left and 3 seats on the right. However the individual seats are so small that upon sitting I am touching the seat in front of me and I cant cross my legs while forced to sit straight up.

Then there is the issue of the people around me. The woman next to me is cradling what I think must be a baby no more than 4 months old, her daughter to her left doesn’t get the concept of a seat belt and is probably younger than 4. Then the seat behind me is another young toddler sitting in the lap of his father kicking . The man to the right seems to have issues as he can’t take his eyes off everything to his left, which is me and the kids. As we land, there is a mad rush to get off the plane, some serious pushing and shoving. All for what? we are all getting on the same bus that is bringing us to the terminal.

I am probably cranky because the flight was delayed on both the departure and arrival. The only saving grace was at luggage pick up, a driver was holding a sign for me.

Plastic ponchos in Hoi An

Today it rained all day… Enough for me to buy a plastic poncho. It actually worked pretty well given that it looks like you are wearing a colorful plastic bag. We walked 5km to the beach, but it was not a beach day. We spent the afternoon shopping and fortunately I came away unscathed. I only bought a silly legos tshirt and a antique Vietnam propaganda poster instead of a new wardrobe of tailor made items. It just didn’t feel right to buy new clothes when I don’t have an eye on the future yet. Tomorrow, half a day free then south to Saigon, Hoi chi Minh city.

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Hoi An

Yesterday I was sitting at the backpackers hostel waiting for the rain to stop and a older white male sat down next to me with a beer. He said, “do you live here?”. I responded curtly, “if you are asking if I am local, no. I am just passing through.”. I probably did not need to be rude in my reply, but I was not interested in starting such a conversation.

Today’s bus ride reminded me of US Chinatown buses. We drove around Hue for an hour to fill up the bus, then on our way, single lane slow driving to Hoi An. I wondered if the bus driver was intentionally driving slow to save gas. Of course, the air conditioning was not working so it was a rather painful bus ride, especially sitting next to a gentleman who did not quite fit in his seat. Departing the bus, I met a French girl from Montreal. We found a hostel together for the next two days. I love traveling by myself because it forces you to be more outgoing and you meet many more people than if you were traveling with friends.

Hoi An is a very popular tourist location with beaches and tailors. I am considering buying a tailored coat or silk dresses but I honestly can’t remember what I own in my closet. When was the last time I wore something that was not quick drying?

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Hue – Central Vietnam

I arrived in Hue after a 14 hour bus ride. I found a backpacker’s place to stay and my new Italian friend and I traveled together all the way from Hanoi. She has a pretty sweet open ended bus package that takes her along the coast of Vietnam for $45. We will go to Hoi An tomorrow.

Today was not a unicorns and rainbows kind of day. I was feeling sluggish, tired and cranky from the heat and lack of sleep. I went to see the Imperial Palace, known as the Citadel but it started to rain and made me feel sticky with the humidity. I should have really liked the Imperial Palace but all I was feeling was a need to lie down or read a book. I went to the supermarket to investigate vitamin C and was disappointed when I forgot which country I was in when it came time to read the ingredients. I bought what I thought may have been orange juice but later chucked up my cookies. It wasn’t awful, just spit up the drink and maybe the previous meal. The meal btw was a Hue local specialty, a pancake dish. Tomorrow a 4 hour bus ride to Hoi An. I hear there is a beach so maybe I will find a place to read.

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Bus bus…

The last time I wore my rain jacket to sleep was in the rain, sleeping on a picnic table in Kansas. Tonight I intended to wear my long sleeve shirt to sleep but because I forgot my eye mask in my luggage below the bus, I had to use my long sleeve shirt to cover my eyes and wear my rain jacket for warmth.

I decided to buy a bus ticket instead of a train ticket to Hue because the front desk manager suggested it was a better use of money. It was $20 for the bus and $40 for the train. The bus left at 7 pm and the train left at 11 pm and the bus would get in earlier tomorrow morning. A plane ticket would have been around $90+ but only 1-2 hours. Seemed like a not so bad idea at the time… Now that I am on the bus I am not so sure. This sleeper bus is all lying down as opposed to a seat that reclines. I met a few other foreigners on the bus and I like how both locals and foreigners are taking the same means of transportation. I’m hoping this experience isn’t going to be that bad. I’ve been on worse… Hard seats in China on a train or a bus ride in Argentina that never ended… Or even the Greyhound I took in Florida, going to Ohio which took 2 days because I missed my ride… I suppose plenty of those experiences should be worse than this one, but at the moment I am not sure. I switched seats with someone so I could speak English with my neighbors and now I am on a top bunk, i am certain I will fall off. I already bumped my head when we hit the road. I met a couple from London, Germany and the Netherlands and a girl from Italy. A lot of folks seem to immigrate to Australia, maybe I can go there too.

I haven’t booked a place to sleep yet for tomorrow night. Figured I would work it out when I get there. It’s the first time I haven’t booked a place to stay but at least I saved on sleeping tonight as I am on the bus. It is amusing to me how much I have changed, suddenly able to move on the fly instead of planning.

*It’s morning now, and the ride this evening wasn’t that bad. I slept pretty well. It just felt like bumper cars all night.

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