05/14/2008 - 05/15/2008
After a very long flight, we have safely arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). We arrived last night around 10PM. We're staying at a nice little guesthouse called Phan Lan that costs around $20 a night.
Today we explored the city and visited the War Remnants Museum, The Reunification Palace, and Cholon (HCMC's version of Chinatown).
The War Remnants Museum contains an interesting collection of U.S. tanks, war planes, artillery, and small arms that were captured during the fall of Saigon. They also have numerous historical photos documenting the effects of the war on the Vietnamese people. Needless to say, Uncle Ho's version of events is slightly different than that of the U.S. government. I'll leave it at that.
The Reunification Palace (formerly known as the Independence Palace) served as the headquarters for the South Vietnamese government during the war.
The palace fell in April of 1975 when North Vietnamese tanks (see below) came crashing through the palace gates. The South Vietnamese government surrendered and that was officially the end of the war. In the days preceding the final attack on Saigon, the U.S. government evacuated tens of thousands of military personnel and civilians as part of the largest helicopter evacuation in history.
Today, the Palace is frozen in time. The Presidential reception rooms, war rooms, and Telex machines look exactly as they did in 1975.
So far, the people of Vietnam have been very friendly and outgoing. Motorcycles are definitely the primary form of transportation for the locals. The streets are filled with them and it's hard to tell if there are actually any traffic laws here...anything seems to go.
We hired a couple of rickshaw drivers to give us a tour of Chinatown. They took us to a number of different Pagodas that were extremely colorful and ornate.
Tomorrow we are planning to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels which served as a Viet Cong stronghold during the war.
We should probably sign off for now...it's starting to rain and we will be heading out for dinner shortly.
Steve & Ann