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Uncle Ho! I'm in Your City!

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)

sunny 37 °C

Day 2 of my tour: Ho Chi Minh City.

Some Westerners still know the city as Saigon, but it was renamed in honour of the very beloved Ho Chi Minh.
His picture was in evidenceVHCM_1.jpeg in many shops, hotel lobbies and public buildings.

Ho Chi Minh first emerged as an outspoken voice for Vietnamese independence while living as a young man in France during World War I. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, he joined the Communist Party and traveled to the Soviet Union. He helped found the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930 and the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, in 1941. At World War II’s end, Viet Minh forces seized the northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi and declared a Democratic State of Vietnam (or North Vietnam) with Ho as president. Known as “Uncle Ho,” he would serve in that position for the next 25 years, becoming a symbol of Vietnam’s struggle for unification during a long and costly conflict with the strongly anti-Communist regime in South Vietnam and its powerful ally, the United States.

Our tour of the city brought me and around 15 other travellers by bus to many of the important (but not exciting) buildings in the city. The markets, churches, temples and official buildings eventually began to blur into images of overstuffed dollar stores, and opulent decor 60s style.

War Remnants Museum

Most memorable was the War Remnants Museum. Outside the museum are period military equipment placed within a walled yard.

The military equipment includes an A-37 Dragonfly attack bomber, a UH-1 "Huey" helicopter, a M48 Patton tank, as well as a number of pieces of unexploded ordnance stored in the corner of the yard, with their charges and/or fuses removed.

Once inside, exhibits include photographic testament to demonstrations held in many countries objecting to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. I had thought that only the Canadians had objected, and had welcomed draft-dodgers. It seems that many other countries objected, Britain, France and West Germany to name a few. When I looked for confirmation on the internet, I found that there was a lack of much but for the anti war movement within the States. It depends who writes the history book, it seems!

This was also a time of youth unrest, with antigovernment demonstrations in southern Europe, namely Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Students in France, Great Britain, West Germany and Italy demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and for other freedoms. In Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina young people led demonstrations and other action against their repressive governments resulting in government reprisals and violence. This was true in other countries too.
There was wide disparity in ideology among students and young people in revolt. ---some for cultural freedom and individual liberty , while in the West, students were protesting the war in Vietnam and domestic policies. Yet the similarity in spirit and style among young people internationally, was hard to ignore. Dozens of photos were displayed, showing demonstrations in various countries calling to an end to U.S. presence in Vietnam.

A Vietnamese poster of the time.............................................Demonstrations in Havana, supporting the Vietnamese people, January 1966.

There were many, many photographs of villages under fire and the aftermath of heavy firepower. A large number of pictures showed the dead bodies of villagers, many women and children and of large groups of people. Soldiers, civilians - injured, killed and fleeing their villages. This is certainly a thought provoking exhibition and worth a visit. Viewing will probably leave you quite somber.

Ben Suc, was a fortified village functioned as a major supply and political center for the Vietcong. Following the village's screening, 106 villagers were detained; the remaining inhabitants of Ben Suc and of surrounding villages, some 6,000 individuals, two-thirds of them children, were deported, along with their belongings and live stock, in trucks, river boats and helicopters to relocation camps. After the deportation of the village's population, Ben Suc was systematically erased in January, 1967 by American engineers who first burned the village's buildings to the ground and then leveled their remnants as well as the surrounding vegetation using bulldozers.

I'm sure you are familiar with this famous photograph.vvv2.jpeg

Kim Phúc and her family were residents of the village of Trang Bang, South Vietnam. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang. Kim Phúc was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes. She joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Caodai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese-held positions.
Associated Press photographer Nick Ut's photograph became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War.
The caption above it indicates that this Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph was presented by Nick Ut to the War Remnants Museum in March, 2013.


Agent Orange was a powerful mixture of chemical defoliants used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, as well as crops that might be used to feed them. It was later revealed to cause serious health issues–including tumors, birth defects, rashes, psychological symptoms and cancer–among returning U.S. servicemen and their families as well as among the Vietnamese population. The second floor of the museum commemorates the use Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and its horrific effects. The photographic display includes work by Vietnam War photojournalist Bunyo Ishikawa that he donated to the museum in 1998, and features very disturbing pictures of disabled people, many of them children born since the end of the Vietnam war.
Some of the books available in the museums gift shop.

According to the museum's own estimates, about two-thirds of their half a million annual visitors are foreigners. However, visitors' opinions are mixed, ranging from favorable to some going so far as to claim that Vietnamese regime has "borrowed images from the West and inserted them into a "distorted" history", using images of the war to substantiate their version and views on Vietnam War history.
Although the exhibits are "blatantly one-sided" with "many exhibits in the museum contain[ing] a heavy dose of anti-American propaganda" and need to be taken with a grain of salt, they do graphically portray the horrors of war.

Jade Emperor Temple

The 100 year-old Jade Emperor Pagoda is an atmospheric Cantonese pagoda, built in 1909. The Jade Emperor, heaven's gatekeeper, watches over an incense-filled room while hidden chambers harbour woodcarvings and altars depicting scenes from Taoist and Buddhist myths. One hall houses the go-to deity if you're seeking fertility and the upstairs section represents heaven and features the goddess, Kwan Ying.

Incense wafts up to the heavens with my thoughts. (YIKES!!!)temple.jpg

Coils of incense hanging from the ceiling are hooked down and lit for worshippers.

Ribbons of aromatic incense smoke.

Inside is dark, lit with the scattered and garish light of fluorescent bulbs and candles, and crowded with statues, tributes, and an assortment of Chinese Taoist religious symbolism. This man is adding scented oil to the candles.

Much of Vietnam's history and thus cultural affiliation, is under the colonization or occupation by China. The Chinese ruled northern Vietnam for more than 1,000 years and Chinese civilization had a great impact on the Vietnamese. However in South Vietnam there was Indian influence. From the 1st century to the 6th century AD the southernmost part of Vietnam was part of a state called Funan.
Ten centuries of Chinese colonization left a substantial demographic footprint, with settlement by large numbers of ethnic Chinese, while opening up Vietnam for trade. Against this the second period of Chinese colonization saw almost 500 years of revolt and war, though the third period (603-939) was more harmonious.
In addition to administration, and making Chinese the language of administration, the long period of Chinese domination introduced Chinese techniques of dike construction, rice cultivation, and animal husbandry. Chinese culture, having been established among the elite mandarin class, remained the dominant current among that elite for most of the next 1,000 years (939-1870s) until the loss of independence under French Indochina.

A well deserved lunch break....

We continued on to markets, a minor temple and well known and important buildings, which all started to blur into images of over-stuffed dollar stores and 60s style decor. A tasteful restaurant and lunch break was followed by an afternoon of additional less than exciting city sites. We day-trippers were brought back to several different hotels, whereupon I set out to explore the city’s night life.

HCMC is home to 8 million inhabitants, and I was told, to 6 million motorbikes. It was a good example of organized chaos. It seems that the easies way to cross a busy street is to just set out at a steady pace and bikes will adjust their flow to go on either side of any and all pedestrians. Honest! ...that's what the locals all do.

I strolled around the downtown. Sidewalks had sprouted little tables and were filled with throngs of diners. Roads had become filled with motorbikes, and a few cars trying to hold their own. Only the buses drove with gay abandon. Parks were lively places where people sat in groups and laughed and other groups exercised to upbeat music or played group sports.
These ladies were having fun with a congenial workout.....................Little stalls offered food and trinkets to strollers in the p

Night Moves in Ho Chi Minh City

High energy work out, the ancient sport - jianzi , and badminton. This place is swingin' and shakin'.

Next is "Up the Lazy Riverl". Visiting the Mekong Delta. ............Be sure to click on "next" for the next entry of this travel blog : )

>>> Entries are made to travel blogs over a number of days or weeks. Using the same link I sent you, you will find additional entries if you revisit this site in another few days or weeks....util I have finished writing about my travels in Cambodia/Vietnam. <<<<<

Posted by Sue McNicholas 08:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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