Our hostel room in Ho Chi Minh City was awful. Not only did it house 12 strange, sweaty people, it also smelled, quite distinctly, of warm piss. And to make matters worse, the air conditioning wasn't working. Not ideal when it's 35 degrees + outside. Suffice it to say we did not have one good night sleep during our time there. The worst night though was undoubtedly when we were forced to spend about 30 minutes listening to an English guy attempt to coax a German girl he had brought back at half four in the morning into his bed. Listening to them flirt and giggle like a couple of schoolb kids was nothing short of torturous. Fortunately , just before I reached the end of my tether and threw the pair a jonny so they could get on with it and spare us all any more cringeworthy come ons, the German girl left. I then turned over to sleep whilst the English guy went over to the bathroom. He was there for about five minutes.
Ho Chi Minh is historically speaking a very important city, as it was a major stage upon which the Viet Cong fought America and the South. So the first thing we did on our first full day in Saigon was make a visit to the War Remants museum. This turned out to be one of the most enlightening museums I have ever been to. It provided guests with a historical and political context for the war, detailed captivating yet tragic stories of individuals who died in it, highlighted the global reaction to the devastation being wrought on the country and revealed the lasting impact of the American bombing on its people. And it really didn't pull any punches with the photographs. At first I got my camera out and took my own snaps of what I was being shown, but soon the images became such that I could only stand in silent horror. The most difficult and perhaps most important photos I saw were those of the children who had been born with unimaginable physical defects, a result of their parents being exposed to the toxins unleashed by the Americans onto the land. I was completely unaware that the war had had such a devastating and lasting effect on the Vietnamese people, it was certainly something they didn't teach us at school. I'm glad I know better now.
On our way back from the museum we happened to bump into Reece and Nicole who, as it turned out, were staying at the same hostel as us. After having dinner together we decided to all book a tour to the famous Cu Chi tunnels for the next day, tunnels that the Viet Cong had used so effectively against the Americans during the war.
The tour itself proved to be pretty average. Not only was it expensive, there was very little information given about the context of the Viet Cong once we were there and we were forced to wait in really long queues just to see the next artefact on show. It just felt really badly put together. Nevertheless, crawling around in the tunnels was an undeniably cool experience. It presented Reece and I with another opportunity to play soldier and we took it with both hands, diving straight into the first one we saw. I hadn't realised how much of my time travelling I would spend acting the seven year old. Lonely planet must leave those bits out.
Tired from tunneling through Ho Chi Minh's undergrowth, we resolved to do little else with our evening than visit the local market for souvenirs. On our way back, we were stopped by a sweet yet sassy ten year old Vietnamese girl who wanted to practice her English. Her grasp of the language was incredible. Not only did she have an extensive vocabularies, she seemed comfortable with all the little nuances and tones that I thought only a native speaker or long time student would be able to get. For example, after finding out that our birthdays she smiled broadly and said ' ahhhh cool, high five! ' But then, when she discovered my actual date was the 25th and not the 2nd like her, she paused, wrinkled her nose and, with one hand on her hip, said: ' you don't get a h high five for that'.
It seems that practising your English on foreigners is actually a thing because two more boys approached us and asked to do the same thing. Though twice the girls age, neither boy had the same comfortablity with the language as she did. But they were nice guys and they invited us to watch the forthcoming fireworks show that was being put on to celebrate the reunification of Vietnam. After the spectacle was over we said our goodbyes and headed home. We had really enjoyed Vietnam but with our visas fast running out, it was time to move on. Next stop: Cambodia.