Due to last night’s people watching shenanigans at the bar round the corner from the hotel, we did get up quite a bit later today than we usually do but hopefully this should not cause us any problems later, or should it?
Well it did take a while to get there on foot, but we eventually reached the Reunification Palace, walked in and were promptly told by a guard there that the place was shutting for an hour, so about face we went, quick march. Okay a slight deviation to our plan but we still could nip round the corner and see the War Remnants Museum couldn’t we? However, looking it up on the net before we started walking we found out that this too was going to be shut. Argghh waking up late has cost us dearly! So it was time to get ‘noodled up’ and reconsider our options here folks. We picked a local sidewalk noodle bar and the noodles here were only excellent and when we got served it became apparent that we had just managed to get there before the mid-day rush started as, in a matter of minutes every other seat was taken by office staff down for their midday meal.
After the noodles, we plumped for going to Notre Dame the cathedral in HCMC as they say that, ‘God’s house is never closed’, God however, did not reckon on Saigon or maybe he/she enjoyed a good lunch as Notre Dame was shut until 3pm! What if I had chosen today to start talking in tongues, where would I go here? Not all was lost though as at the side of the church was the city’s old Post Office. This looks to be a grand old building on the outside and on the inside it was even better, all mahogany, cast iron and ancient maps with some quirky shops and even more quirky old phone booths. Quite an elegant and unexpected experience and it did not even cost us a penny to go inside!
So after our short detour we went back to the Palace and had just a short wait before it eventually opened. The Palace is a cool place to go and have a look around and it was interesting to hear how the palace was used during the conflict with America. The strange thing about the place was the longer we stayed, the more – to my warped mind at least – the entire place looked like a James Bond villain’s hideout. Even better, an old Bond movie at that. It was all a bit surreal really but still very interesting to boot. From the tanks and jet in the palace grounds to the big meeting room, to the helicopter on the roof and signs saying where bombs had fallen on the palace – it was all very villainous in appearance but making it great fun too.
It was a bit of a walk round a couple of corners but we soon enough reached our next place to visit – the ‘War Remnants Museum’. This was an altogether different kind of experience in that it was really quite harrowing. Yes, I know the whole place gives the story of the Vietnam war from their point of view and … yes, it is a biased perspective but you have to see the pictures to understand that no one human being should ever do such horrific things to another, no matter what the provocation is. The photos on display are the main things which stupefy for all the wrong reasons and even the hardest hearts shed a tear or two here. I am sure everyone will have a photo that sticks out in their minds but for me it was a black and white photo of a young lady with her skirt pulled up her thighs … simply dead. Being a man, your brain draws your eyes to look at her legs first off, then your eyes pull outwards from this and take in the carnage that is the young lady simply being lifeless. I took no photos whilst in the museum as it just did not seem right to do in so many ways but people should go and see these things for themselves. The facts do not lie, America simply tried to bomb and poison the sh!t out of the Vietnamese who would not be beaten, so perhaps they can be forgiven somewhat for giving such a biased offering here. There is a book of thoughts that you can write in to jot down your personal experiences on how the exhibits have affected you. I could not believe it but the person before us had had a rant about the fact that the museum had a Coke machine in it! I am not really sure of the mindset of some people, it just both enraged and saddened me at the same time – missing the point simply does not cover it. In other parts of the museum and outside there is all manner of war equipment paraphernalia going on but the real deal are the photos, go and see them but please do prepare for it to challenge your emotions.
Along the streets as we walked away and we encountered the traffic and although we thought Hanoi had been quite the place for mopeds here in Saigon for some reason it seemed even worse, possibly because of the traffic lights. Whole platoons of riders and their chargers would turn up at a red light revving and waiting, though not all obeyed the first rule of traffic light club – to stop! Next the lights would change and all hell would break loose! An amazing thing to see if only we were not the ones crossing but only in a slightly terrifying kind of way.
Back we went to try Notre Dame once again, meaning that by the end of the day our traverse about the city had been a bit like a game of pinball, very back and forth. The church looked a really excellent building from the outside but the inside it was only okay in the scheme of things probably because I suppose it was a ‘working’ church and not just a tourist place, so an excellent place to pray but not so great for a photo or two but that is a good thing too.
Round the corner we went to a shopping mall which was a hugely expensive place to shop even for the big spenders (lol) like us. The main shoppers here seemed to be guys who were fighting the gender stereotype and possibly wearing more make up than I have ever even seen on Dynasty! Wearied out by the entire day we made our slow way back by walking the long way to the hotel where we thankfully put our feet up and rested for a short while before venturing out one last time. On the night time we just had ourselves another dish of nourishing noodles but it was at a much less well decorated cafe. Then it was time for bed.