Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 130 - Vietnam: A History Lesson

I'm in Vietnam! I arrived in Ho Chi Min City yesterday, after a mostly painless flight from Oz, and met back up with Mallary.  We indulged last night in a little Aussie feast consisting of cheeses (vintage cheddar and blue vein), hummus, Allen's lollies, Aussie wine (white and red!) and Caramello Koalas.  There are somethings you just can't get over here in Asia, and I wanted to introduce Mallary to the myriad of awesome stuff from Australia.

Today, being our first actual day in the city, we began by exploring Ho Chi Min City from the front of a 'cyclo'.  A cyclo is a modified bicycle, in which one passenger can sit on the front, and the driver peddles from the back.  It's a cool way to get around a big city like Saigon because its a nice slow pace, and you're sat at the front of the vehicle so you can actually see everything!  You do feel a little like you're being pushed around in a wheelchair though.  And the traffic feels even more crazy (if that possible) when you're being pushed directly into it beyond all control.

Our final destination was the War Reminants Museum.  It was intense to say the least.  We started by walking around the US Army tanks and fighter planes, but it really hit home when we walked into the recreation of the Con Dao and Phu Quoc Prisoner Camps.  I realised that what I learnt about the Vietnam War in school was totally biased, and how the Vietnamese prisoners' of war were treated was absolutely barbaric. The torture techniques used on these prisoners were so far beyond inhumane, I don't think there is a strong enough descriptive word to use.  I felt like I was going to throw up just looking at the torture devices and reading about the torture techniques. I can't even begin to imagine how it would have felt to be one of these helpless prisoners.  It is clearly so far flung from any level of pain I've ever experienced, I felt as if I'd never felt pain in my entire life.  Mallary and I both commented that we felt like we couldn't remember a single painful experience that had occurred in either of our lives.

This is called a 'Tiger Cage'
These barbed wire cages were used as a torture device. The small size (1.8m x 6.7m x 0.4m) was used to hold 3 people. 
With concerned looks on our faces, we learnt of the after affects of the war too, and the birth defects still occurring in babies today from Agent Orange, the chemical weapon the US sprayed over a large portion of Vietnam during the war.  We read a tear-jerking and heart breaking letter from one child to Barrack Obama, desperately asking for his assistance in seeing that sufferers of Agent Orange in Vietnam get the same compensation as the US sufferers.

Mallary and I kept commenting to each other that we really did not learn enough about the Vietnam War in school, and even though we knew they suffered during this time, we had absolutely no idea of the deep level of suffering, and just how lopsided the fighting was.

Feeling a little numb and a lot overwhelmed, we needed sometime to process what we had just learned.  We did this over our first bowl of Pho.  Vietnam's national dish.  And a delicious dish it is.  Pho is a noodle soup, usually with some kind of meat, a tasty broth, and a myriad of ingredients you can add yourself to change or enhance the flavour of the broth.

Watching a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show (which they have been practising since the 11th century), was the perfect end to the perfect day of immersing ourselves in Vietnamese culture and history.

No comments:

Post a Comment