We spent yesterday looking around Saigon. Very difficult to walk around in this temperature and humidity but when we get to the wilting stage, we retreat to our hotel for a bit of air conditioned comfort and a recharge.
Today we went down to My Tho in the Mekong River delta and did roughly the same touor as David & I did all those years ago. My Tho is about 70km south of Ho Chi Minh City and on one of the branches of the Mekong 9obvioulsy). At this point the river is perhaps 2 km wide. We visited a couple of gardens on islands in the midle of the river and a place where they made coconut candy. Hardly spectacular by our standards, but interesting allowing for the very undeveloped nature of this country as well as culturally. We had quite a delicious lunch in a little tea house – fish in rice paper rolls, soup, spring rolls and fruit. Everyone but the driver (thankfully) got a little sleepy on the way back to Saigon.
Finally we visited the War Museum which is now in its third stage of naming. It was originally the US Imperialist War Crimes Museum. Last time we were here it had changed to the War Crimes Museum and now it is called the War Memories Museum. The name gets a little softer with every change. It has lots of pictures and some displays of equipment that show how terrible war can be for both the soldiers and civilains. The narrations are certainly skewed in their presentation and clearly illustrate the Vietnamese view of the war. It was quite surreal to be looking in at a very crtitical and biased view of something of which I was a part. OUr side clearly did not win!
Some final observations on Saigon before we leave for Hoi An tomorrow:
1. Far more motor cycles and a lot less bicycles than I remember ten years ago.
2. A lot of building and construction. Some office buildings are twenty floors or so. The Caravelle Hotel is no longer the tallest building in town, even though it has now doubled in size.
3. A lot more things to buy than when we were here last time – then we struggled to find any decent souvenirs.
4. A lot more restaurants
5. Less cyclos.
6. In the last ten yars, the standard pay of a government worker has risen from US$10 per month to $120.
7. Little villages and hamlets are just the same as they were 35 years ago, except now everyone has a TV antenna on their roof.