(April 17, 2019, Sea Day 96/183)
We were awakened by the ship rocking side to side at 5:30 on April 18, only to discover it was snaking its way up the Saigon River, a 40 mile run from coastal waters to Ho Chi Minh City.
Luckily our small ship was able to navigate the river which allowed us to dock in the heart of the
city while most cruise ships are relegated to a port two torturous driving hours away with the horrendous traffic.
Once again, signs of economic expansion are everywhere in another Asian counrty: new bridges, roads, rail lines and dozens of buildings under construction. Saigon exhibits many of the accoutrements of economic success, including fine restaurants, new and renovated hotels, night clubs and expensive jewellery stores abound. Most cars are new, buses are modern. I guess as long as the West continues to have our manufacturing done here, these countries will continue to boom!
Serious negative point is the disgusting amount of debris in their waterways! Disregard for the environment may be a carryover from the days of agent orange-induced total devastation of their countryside. See photo!
Vietnamese people eat all kinds of meat, including, snakes, crickets, grass hoppers, rats and all the normal domestic animals. City rats aren't on the menu but country rats are highly rated as being organic, free range, tongue in cheek......lol. Our guide wouldn't accept that we don't eat dog, as we glorify "Hot Dogs" at the baseball games. His question was - Then why not call meals hot pig, hot cow, etc?
Our lunch time came up so he asked if there were any vegetarians on the tour? Well, in perfect unison, everyone said "we all are"!!! LOL Meal was very good, however!
Our excursion today included a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels and their war museum. A short section of the tunnels has been enlarged ( 30" by 60" ) to accommodate our western stature from an unbelievable original size of 31 cm (12"} by 80 cm (31.5"). Merrilynne and I crawled through a section and have sore muscles now which we didn't even know we had...... Hard to imagine 16,000 people lived in these tunnels, which stretch for 250 kilometers. Every facet of life and war, for 7 years, was supported in these excavations. Worth googling to see details. About 60,000 Vietnamese were killed in these tunnels by CO gas, petroleum fires, hand to hand combat as well as by hundreds of allied "Tunnel Rat" soldiers. Must have been hell for everyone!
Our guide told the men to go first into the tunnels - unexploded ordinance, then he laughed.
War museum was very explicit and graphic, as exemplified by photographs taken by international journalists. 3.5 million Vietnamese were killed, including 1.1 million soldiers. Let us never forget the 58,220 allied soldiers, mostly Americans, who died.
I will itemize below many items for my own recollection. which may not be of interest to everyone.
- Vietnam population is about 96,000,000, having doubled in 40 years.
- Saigon, the financial center, is 13,000,000
- 10,000,000 motor bikes are registered. No dogs or cats are allowed to run free because of the risk to motor bikes.
- Vietnam has been dominated by foreign powers for years. France colonized the area in the 1880s, ruling till 1945, when the Japanese expelled them, Then France returned in 1946, attacking from the South while Chaing Kai-shek attached from China. France oppressed the southern population again, not even allowing kids to go to school. Kept them ignorant!
- After the American surrender in 1975, the Kamir Rouge attacked from the South, starting a four year war, killing another 10 thousand Vietnamese.
- Viet Cong used fireflies contained in jars for light in the tunnels.
- Roots were the main food
- All surface water was contaminated leaving wells the only reasonably safe source.
- 8 countries formed a coalition during the Vietnam war, including 50,000 Koreans, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Laos, Taiwan and USA.
- 4 million Vietnamese were impacted by agent orange, with the problem still unfolding. Same issue exists for the allied survivors. We met three American veterans who are suffering from agent orange too. Dick got esophageal cancer 7 years ago, Tom has neurological damage affecting his motor skills and another developed skin cancer.
- Younger Vietnamese generations are several inches taller as result of better nutrition.
So far, we haven't seen a mosquito!
We visited the Mekong delta for our second day tour. Photos follow.
Example of new construction observed on cruise along the Saigon River
Skyline of Ho Chi Minh City, 81 story tower.
67 story financial tower with Helli-pad.
Built in 1920s
Example of a booby trap. Trap door would rotate when stepped on.
Scrambling through the Cu Chi tunnel, with the benefit of a light
Example of munitions room in a tunnel where bombs were built from unexploded ordinance.
Imagine meeting this guy in combat!
As Merrilynne says Whew, it is over!
Hell hole cell!
Devastation caused by Agent Orange
Often-used guillotine when the French were in power, up to 1954.
Remains of a VC
Cages used to detain allied prisoners for days.
Tunnel entrance 12" by 14"
Our ride to the Mekong delta
High traffic Mekong tributary
Fair skinned beauty!
Nice meal with elephant fish as one of the dishes
Typical jungle shoreline along the 40 mile access to Saigon