Ho Chi Minh Day 2 (26.06.2012): Fantastic day in Ho Chi Minh city. We headed down for breakfast at 8:30am (free hostel breakfast, I had noodles). We then hit the streets following one of the suggested walking tour itineraries. First stop Ben Thanh Market. The market was amazing. We purchased way too many things: pictures, noodle bowls, place mats.. We have now realised we are going to have to send a box of goodies home. Apparently it will take 2 - 3 months to get there so we might beat it back!
We left the market with a heavier load than would have been comfortable for the rest of the day and headed to Reunification Palace. After a quick photo we then walked to Notre Dame and the Post Office before stopping in a coffee house for some lunch.
At around 13:30 we made for the War Remnants Museum; a museum documenting the atrocities of the Vietnam War. I didn't think I would see anything so moving as the Cambodian prison and Killing Fields but the tales told in this museum were equally heart-breaking. Over 2 million civilians were killed in the Vietnam War and the suffering continues today. Whilst the museum was obviously one sided, the torture and atrocities committed by America, only 30 years ago, are shocking and barbaric. It is particularly unnerving that this has not been learnt from having recently heard of similar atrocities committed in Iraq.
We saw pictures of American soldiers sat having pictures taken with smug grins surrounded by beheaded women and children. We also learnt about Agent Orange which is one of the herbicides and defoliants which was sprayed across Vietnam - killing trees & wildlife, contaminating water and thereby causing widespread famine and destruction. Those exposed were not only burnt but suffered a variety of skin conditions and cancer. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects - the number is raising as the toxin is affecting 2nd and 3rd generations. The Vietnam Red Cross reported as many as 3 million Vietnamese people have been affected by Agent Orange.
I can't understand how American could act as judges for the Nuremberg Trial in the late 1940s deeming the perpetrators inhumane and cruel - yet 20 years later commit such cruelty themselves. How can such decisions such as Agent Orange ever get sanctioned?
Having lost my faith in mankind, we left the museum and headed for something much more light hearted: The Water Puppet Show. Vietnamese traditional water puppetry dates back to the 11th Century and is therefore a part of Vietnam's cultural heritage. The puppets were truly spectacular. It was a great way to learn more about the cultural life of Vietnamese people. Afterwards, I couldn't resist buying my own mini fisherman water puppet. I am a sucker for a cheesy souvenir.