Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam War’

Cu Chi

We took some day trips to areas near Saigon. The first to the Cu Chi tunnels. These were the tunnels built all over the Saigon area that allowed the Vietnamese to travel and move supplies without the US soldiers knowing during the war. In fact American soldiers had one of their bases right on top of most of them and just couldn’t figure out where in the hell those enemy soldiers were sneaking in from. There are around 500 km of these tunnels dug by hand, reaching all the way to the ocean. They’d put the extra dirt in bomb craters. The tour guide for this tour had pretty passable English and a good sense of humor, “Now, when we get to the tunnel part, if you get scared you can get out every 20 meters. There are 100 meters total”…What do you mean get scared…what? Then I go crawl in. These tunnels are tiny…very very tiny, and snaking, and hot. Despite spending lots of time in caves…I got out of this tunnel after 60 meters, exhausted from walking crouched over and crawling. 500km? Holy shit, is all I have to say.

Before we left they had us watch a “documentary”…it was straight up a propaganda film from wartime, grainy black and white film. It showed smiling little kids standing on the bodies of dead Americans, young girls receiving awards for killing “capitalist baby murderers” and old men sharpening bamboo stakes for rudimentary booby traps. While I completely disagree about America entering the Vietnam War, much the same as the Iraq war, nonetheless, it was strange to sit there amidst mostly Europeans and watch this “documentary”.

Later in the day we went to a museum called the “War Remnants Museum” while about the effects of the Vietnam War on the Vietnamese people, it was more of a museum about the horrors of war in general. The people stuck in the midst. Do you defend your home? Do you defend it at the risk of choosing sides? How is anyone to know what you believe? Do you want to sacrifice everything for a future that you were never previously aware of outside of your village?

It was a museum filled with nothing but thousands of photos of bodies, bombs, crying children, elderly people marching. Scientific reports, census numbers, bomb fragments. A whole floor dedicated entirely to showcasing the effects of Agent Orange, not only on people alive during the war, but those currently being born every single day. Unimaginable birth defects. They didn’t die immediately from bullets or bombs, all of these people and children, they live everyday with the consequences of poison from 40 years ago. I watch people cultivating rice from fields that were inundated with thousands of gallons of poison just 40 years ago in Cu Chi.  I was surprised that the only anti-American sentiments I heard spoken the whole time I was in the country were from the wobbly voice of a video from 30 years ago. But nothing had to be said; in each and every city there was evidence of destruction, a past that they’re still recovering from. The museum made me physically ill, but I felt like there should be more of this in every city in the world… we are desensitized to TV, to the shock value of daily media. There is nothing more moving than simple, candid, home photographs taped to walls in room after room, with nothing more than the request to look in silence and think.

SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-11 12-44-42SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-11 11-53-04

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Hue, Vietnam

August 6 and 7

We took an overnight sleeper bus to Hue. Man, we should definitely travel like this in America. Every person gets their own little seat that allows their legs to be straight forward and for the back to lay completely down like a bed, two levels of these 3 rows with ladders to the top ones. It was bumpy but great, you can actually sleep on a 12 hour bus ride. We arrived in Hue, picked a hotel at random.

Checked out the Citadel. There is the regular city, fairly small, then this massive crumbling brick wall, every so often a gate leads into quiet, shady trees and old buildings. Inside is the old Imperial Palace, or what’s left of it after bombing during the war. Parts have soaring columns and intricate carvings and others are merely some tiles on the ground in a field. Climbing around trees and bushes, we stumble upon parts of houses and shrines, worn out dragons from a festival, wells, and fruit trees, dusty rooms with old furniture. It’s all open and free to be wandered, with occasional signs…this was the palace for the king’s mother…this is the palace for the king’s uncle…this is the palace for the king’s 3rd wife. Interestingly in the midst of all of this is a tennis court, perfectly fine. There is a small sign that notes, “the last Nguyen king reigned in the 1930’s…he had a love of tennis and we have successfully restored this portion of the palace”….great…number one on my list of ancient palace sites to fix….tennis courts…check. I suppose getting replacement tennis nets is a bit easier than say replacement, 14th century chairs.

While wandering the grounds (and Vietnam in general) you are endlessly inundated with “Miiiiisssss, Miiiiiiss, you want cyclo? One hour tour, very good, see whole city…Missssss you want? You want?” Eventually I am worn down, and there are some impending rain clouds…ok how much? “10$ I take you everywhere”……I snort…10$ is the entire cost of our hotel…is the cost of a 12 hour bus ride…or the cost of a ridiculously fancy dinner. No…I begin to walk away, as all good bargainers do. “Ok ok, misss, what you pay…I give you good price”…I’ll pay… 10,000d (50 cents). “Oh, no no no miss, I can make no profit”…..you pedal a cab, there is nothing but pure profit to make…this argument does not fly. Fine, walk away again…..”Ok, ok, miss, 10,000d is good….missssssss….missssss”….I’m already halfway home, this back and forth wears me out…no cyclo ride today, even if it is 50 cents.

In walking however you encounter the unique world of no sidewalks and lawless traffic…there are no road crossings, there are no traffic lights. Crossing the road in a car consists of blowing your horn and plowing through…walking…you merely step straight into the fray. Walk very slowly, so that everyone can drive around you while angrily honking. Little old ladies step straight into rush hour traffic without batting an eye and somehow make it across fine. It’s like real life frogger.

After a day or so of wandering we left to go to Hoi An, down the road a bit. Our life was a series of bus rides…

dragonbwSONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-06 12-04-08SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-06 13-24-53SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-06 12-46-19In one of the standing portions of the palace you could pay around 3 us$ to dress in traditional royal clothes and pose on a fake throne for photos. I could just imagine the original royal family freaking out over this tourist opportunity. Asians are so so afraid of ghosts…and well, this seems like prime angry ghost activity. But that little boy is damn cute.

SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-06 13-21-11Grounds workers sleeping off the sweltering afternoon in a random hallway to nowhere.

SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-06 12-57-43A crumbling house and small shrine on an island in the middle of a lotus pond, there used to be a bridge but it had since rotted away, so I could only stand on the stairs to the water taking pictures. I want to live on that tiny island!

SONY            - DSLR-A100 - 2009-08-06 13-25-59In the middle of a fountain was this giant construction of bonsai and rocks. However if you look really closely there are tiny cermic pagodas and in other photos I have there are little ceramic farmers with oxen. It’s its own imaginary lilliputian land. All I needed was some of my childhood barbies to add to the scene.

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