I chanted that all day for 2 days (in my head only, not trying to stand out more than I already do). The flight was a short 1.5 hours from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh, and if it wasn’t for a French lady named Sophie, very smooth. Sophie started off a crazy lady, but ended up being such a treat. We couldn’t shake her, it was a day full of saying goodbye and reuniting 3 minutes later. It started with her being in our shuttle bus to the airport. She was freaking out because she didn’t think we’d make it there on time. Then she was behind us at every checkpoint at the airport. She even sought me out to tell me she thought I should help my friend because she thought Halez was having some baggage trouble (she wasn’t). We boarded the bus to take us to the plane together. We boarded the plane way before her and then she showed up and sat right next to me on the aisle. We left the plane together, we looked for a taxi together, we shared a taxi, she got out of the taxi. Keep in mind there was a “goodbye!” after every phase of this travel process. She was hilarious talking and joking with our cab driver on our way to District 1, so Sophie made back all the points she lost on the flight.
The best (worst) part about Sophie is that she is a “gazer.” When you are in the aisle seat of an airplane, and you don’t know the other 2 people, don’t you feel UNCOMFORTABLE gazing out the window? Looking past 2 people who, in their peripheral vision, see you STARING at them? I couldn’t help but turn my head and risk making VERY awkward eye contact with her just to make sure she was, in fact, looking out the window and not at my face. I again have just surprised myself with a paragraph, the opening paragraph nonetheless, about a subject really not worth anyone’s time. Sorry but not really.
Ho Chi Minh was crazy crazy. The most common way travelers explain the attempt of crossing the street is by comparing it to Frogger. There are minimal signs, rules, lights, lines, lanes, ANYTHING that would promote safety. I’m now really good at crossing these streets because I simply don’t give a shit. If they hit me, so be it, but I’m 100 percent positive they won’t. It’s a strange, strange trust. The city is filled with tall buildings, hotels, BRIGHT lights, and tons of noise. My main interest in Ho Chi Minh was visiting the War Remnants Museum.
I’m not sure why I thought this would be a small Museum, but it was much larger than I envisioned. Outside were several fighter jets, tanks and missiles that the Americans used in the Vietnam War. Inside was 3 levels with different galleries of photos, memorabilia, letters, propaganda posters, and war crimes. I have always had a big interest in the history of wars and love reading books and watching movies about them. The Vietnam War has a larger effect on me because my Uncle Billy died during combat on March 25th 1969 in Southern Vietnam. Of course I never met my Uncle, but he was my mother’s only brother, thus leaving her with 6 CRAZY sisters (with my mom being the craziest, of course). He could have used the “sole surviving son” that would have kept him out of combat zones or his Engineering degree that could have kept him out all together. He did not feel it was fair for him to defer and others to serve, so to Vietnam he went. As I looked at all the photos I kept thinking I would see his face, and I kept an eye out for his division.
With learning about the Vietnam war briefly in High School, and doing a little research on my own, I was still shocked by the intense hatred everybody had toward Americans for being in Vietnam. I didn’t realize how much damage we did to helpless villages and the shameful war crimes we committed. The attitude was to kill everything in sight, and that is a duty they carried out. I was scared to tell my mom that I was going to Vietnam. I scooted around the subject until the last possible second. I know how much anguish she (and all my Aunts) carry around, and it surfaces with the mention of War, Vietnam, and more directly so, Billy. I felt guilty for wanting to go to Vietnam on, what this trip can easily be called, “vacation.” Was I really planning to go to Vietnam, lay on the beaches where millions have died, and enjoy the luxuries of cheap but really nice hotels? My mom didn’t react like I thought she was going to, she almost did, but I think deep down she saw it coming. She also had exhausted herself with worry about everything else at that point that she just didn’t have the energy to really question me. So I thank you, mom, for not making me feel guilty for enjoying Vietnam, I know it’s been really hard on you, and you emailing me once every 3 days is a huge accomplishment!
The War Remnants Museum was a very heavy way to spend the afternoon. Eye-opening, educational, and worth the visit. Both Haley and I were left floored on why in the world they would ever want Americans back in their country, let alone be so darn welcoming and friendly. Our relationship has come a long way, and the Vietnamese have been nothing but helpful and accommodating. Some have gone so far to say “Ohhhh America??? that is my favorite! Welcome!”
It was our last night in Vietnam so we went to a packed outdoor restaurant and I ordered something I had never heard of before, Grilled Blood Cockles. It was under the BBQ section so I figured it was some sort of grilled fish. They were clams, they tasted like the Jersey Shore, and I gagged. I don’t regret choosing them, it was a good lesson learned, but my God, never again. Vietnam has been so wonderful, very friendly people and I’ve tasted my favorite foods so far. A ton a fresh seafood and more stir-fry. We are taking a bus over to Pnohm Penh, Cambodia next, can’t wait for more new places! Everyday, new things.