Coconuts, bees, and oranges? It sounds like it could be some kind of strange concoction to me. As much as I would
love to taste it, what I actually experienced during my next two days in Saigon was not entirely that pleasant of a combination. It was still interesting, nevertheless.
I signed myself up for my first tour, a Mekong Delta tour by the name of Muy Tho and Ben Tre after the small islands on the river. I had originally wanted to do it combined with a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels, just for the sake of being able to shoot the AK-47 and M30. *sly smile*
Much to my dismay, I was unable to fulfill my small dream because of lack of signups. 😦
Still, I was up for a tour because I was slowly starting to already get sick of not being able to talk much. I figured I would be able to meet some new people and be social again.
It was a long four hours drive to the Mekong Delta, which looked pretty grand up from the bridge but was nothing much up close. Still, getting on a boat and crossing the river which flows through six countries felt interesting enough. The boat ride to the small islands seemed to take longer than I thought it would, but it gifted me with a nice breeze and serene view of the seemingly still waters.
It was on this boat that I met Jensen, a Canadian backpacker who was quick to emphasize that Jensen was her first name, not her last, as so many of the Vietnamese tour dealers called her. I immediately liked her because she had just come through Vietnam after visiting Thailand, and even more so because she would be heading right back again just because she loved it so much. Although I was appreciating being able to visit another country, you know how it’s like with home taking a soft spot in your heart. Anyway, it was inspiring and insightful listening to a tourist talk about the familiar places I used to wander about. 🙂 I joined in on all her “oohs” and “aahs” of Thailand.
Jensen and I had a fun time talking and eating a considerably good meal despite my worries about a skimpy tourist company lunch. After discovering our common love for coconut, we immediately made plans to taste and buy lots of coconut products at the coconut farm later on. Much to our surprise, though, mediocre free coconut candy was all we were satisfied with.
We also got to cram ourselves into little bamboo boats and row, or in my case, make a failed attempt at rowing, which Jensen teased me for.
And then came more failed moments for me. We visited a bee farm, and our tour guide held out a bee hive and convinced us to put a finger through it and taste some legit honey. I shouldn’t have let curiosity win over me, because I did exactly what he told me and… yes, got stung.
I know I look ridiculous because… well, I guess you can be excused to look the way I did, getting stung by not a bee but a freaking hive of bees.
Note to myself: maybe I could be a little more distrustful with tour guides the next time around, eh?
Don’t take me wrong. I am still kindly attaching this photo revealing the name of the tour company. All jokes aside though, I think that the Sinh Tourist, actually one of the most popular choices by tourists in Vietnam, does live up to its name and price.
I had my taste of beloved coconuts in the form of flour, candy, oil, and even wine, I definitely had the most amount of honey I’ve ever had from what Yo slathered onto my pinky claiming it was ancient remedy, and I had made a backpacker friend. Three checks!
And now on to the less exhilarating part of my Saigon trip.
It was actually a very humbling, sad experience but one I think was meaningful and in some terms, necessary when in Saigon.
I’m talking about the Vietnam War and Saigon’s associated monuments, exhibitions and museums, which made up the last part of my stay.
I’m a history nerd, and I am especially fascinated with wars, in particular WWII and the Vietnam War. Being so, I was actually looking forward to the historic part of my trip in Saigon.
What I found and learned, though, was far deeper and touching than I had thought it would be.
I didn’t make it to the Unification Palace where I intended to brief myself on some rough Vietnamese history, and so the War Remnants Museum was my first and last historic visit.
I don’t want to go too deep into everything and read between the lines or anything, but to see the destruction, losses and hurt both nations went through during the time was not easy for me, to say the very least. I guess I am normally more emotional than average people are, but regarding this, though, I don’t think I was the odd one in the museum on any scale.
There were quite a number of exhibitions, I believe six or seven in total, spread on three floors. Despite the vast space, it felt like everything was in slow motion. The moving of the people’s lips reading the horrendous descriptions of pictures, the footsteps which faltered before being able to move onto yet the next graphic representation, and even the clicks of camera shutters seemed hesitant in capturing the remains.
I appreciated the well-organized structure of the exhibitions, though, as well as the really vivid descriptions for each picture, news article clipping, and graphic model.
Some of the posters really shocked me with how strongly and clearly the images were trying to communicate.
This museum came to an end with a final exhibition called “Agent Orange”, also the name for the powerful chemical defoliant used by U.S. military forces during the war which later caused serious health issues ranging from tumors, birth defects, to cancer and psychological symptons.
What really moved me though, was how it was divided into two sides, one focusing on the losses of the Vietnamese, and another shedding light on the sacrifices of the Americans as well.
Although some images really just made my heart throb at the thought of the pain both sides had to and still do go through, the museum seemed to make at least one thing clear as crystal:
A war is a war between two parties.
This means that both are affected.
And finally, it is something that cannot be weighed by losses and gains, and shouldn’t be.