Saigon, after Hanoi and what I’d heard was one place I wasn’t looking forward to coming to.
But after the first day I was wrong and gladly so.
I had decided before we set off that given Saigon was the last place we visit that maybe we should try and spend a few nights with a Vietnamese family. We tried Couch Surfer to no avail. But what I did manage to find was a home, in the centre of the backpacker area (District 1) it is owned by a lovely couple – Mr. and Mrs. Long. Basically they have a two bed room house. But the homes in Vietnam are not like the UK. Here it is a room, then a staircase then a room then a staircase to the next room. The cost for the room per night is 4GBP, which means if the Longs can fill both rooms they sleep on the floor in the entrance to their home for 8gbp per night – Which is not only very sad, but shows the desperation of the Vietnamese people.
When we arrived they had both waited up for us, they had a drink sorted for me and one for the kids which was lemon tea. Mrs. Long was overwhelmed by the kids.
The following morning she asked if we had any laundry. About 10am there was a power cut so we went out. We visited the most amazing market – Ben Thanh Market. That place sells everything you could probably buy a Versace Kidney if you wanted. Whilst the place sells everything I was still reminded about how thick some Vietnamese people think English are. The conversation went something like this “Genuine Rolex watch 450,000 dong (12 quid)” Have a word mate, do you really think I’m so stupid? I was talking to 2 Irish guys in the bar and they said the same, Vietnamese people think us Westerners are just walking dollar bills without an ounce of common sense or brain cells.
Still, the market is amazing. I loved it!
Afterwards we walked up to the ‘War Remnants Museum’ which basically is a museum dedicated to what we know as the ‘Vietnam War’ – The one where according to Hollywood American soldiers flew into Vietnam kicked ass and then left again. Well, the reality is very different. The museum is very biased, it shows only what the Americans did but it is still a very difficult pill to swallow. There are very graphic pictures of children massacred, civilians lay dying, hundreds of photos, everyone designed to stir emotion and they do. Pictures I never hoped to see images I never knew imaginable, human acts I never realized were possible. A story was told and it is told with force. There is a glass case filled with liquid, inside are 3 deformed dead babies – Victims of the horrible war.
People may question my motives for letting my young kids see such horror. But I wanted them to see the reality of war. Abigail stood speechless looking at a picture of a US soldier holding the internal organs of a Vietnamese soldier, she stood without question at a picture of maybe 30 people dead on the road as they had tried to escape – Women and children massacred. Charlie was no different, at one point he had tears in his eyes, I asked what was wrong – His answer “This is sickening dad” And he was right. They walked round the place with such maturity and understanding I was so proud. When we left I was asked how one human can do such things to another. I didn’t have the answer then and I don’t’ now.
If anyone does know the answer please comment. It leaves a horrifying picture in my mind and a question I would like answering myself.
When we returned to the guest house i saw Mrs Long on her knees doing my laundry in a bucket beneath the stairs. I wanted to see real Vietnam when we first arrived in Hanoi. Sadly we have seen it.
Tomorrow we go to the Zoo…