Vietnam happenings

Second day in Saigon we went to the Cu Chi tunnels, an extensive network used by the VC that at one point went to the Cambodian border and out to the Mekong River. Went into the tunnels–there was a point you could go 1200 feet, but I could only do about 600–imagine being bent way over (and I’m 5’1.5″) going through a dark, airless, humid, and hot passageway. I’m not normally claustrophobic, but I felt it this time. There were people who stayed in the tunnels for weeks during bombings. The area around Cu Chi is jungle-like, with the heat/humidity to boot. Tourists can also buy bullets to fire at targets, so the sound of gunfire added to the “atmosphere”. The area also featured a few craters made by B-52 bombs. They had a small section on “normal life” activities, such as making rice wrappers and rice wine–I tried the latter and spit it out–tasted like vaguely rice-flavored grain alcohol with a splash of gasoline.
Afterwards we had an official cyclo tour of Saigon, which was better than the “psycho” tour of the previous day. We then stopped at the War Remnants museum for about an hour. Two cliches come to mind about the nature of the exhibits: 1. History is written by the conquerors, and 2. Truth is the first casualty of war. The Vietnamese government painted the war as mainly Americans versus Vietnamese, instead of showing it as a civil war. No mention of how the Vietnamese hurt each other or how unpopular the war was in the US. They had an exhibit by war photographers, which was interesting. The best exhibit were drawings of kids on war consequences and hopes for peace. The next paragraph might be hard for some of you to read.
Many of the exhibits were no less intense than those featured at Tuol Sleng. Also included were very graphic pictures of women/children huddling together before they were executed, people who were burned/blasted beyond recognition of individual features, or in some cases of whether they were human at one point. An exhibit on kids who were exposed to Agent Orange and their various disabilities/disfigurements was also presented. One American woman commented to me offhandedly that our government told its citizens that Agent Orange was virtually harmless to people. A few people were crying. I just couldn’t look anymore. No question our side committed some atrocities, but we suffered too. During the visit, there was a downpour, which was apt (“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”).
The day ended on an up note–had a drink on the 23rd floor of the Sheraton, and watched the sunset. Next day flew to Danang and made our way to Hoi An, a.k.a. Faifo in the days of the Portuguese. Hoi An is much less frantic than Saigon, and very cute, but touristy. You can get some deals here, but maybe not as great as you’d think. Took a cooking class last night–the food wasn’t as spicy/tasty as I had hoped, but I learned a few tricks and have a few ideas to try out at home ;
Today went to the My Son ruins, a World heritage site, built in the 7th century. Some were damaged during bombings, but the remaining ones are still spectacular. Tomorrow we’re off to Hue for a couple days, then on to Hanoi.
The heat and humidity persist despite moving North–I wonder if I will ever be totally dry again.
Hope all is well with you–Aimee

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