Vietnam: June 27-30

While Allan was touring Beijing Evelyn took a short trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Actually, Ho Chi Minh City
(HCMC) is not so much a city as a small province covering an area of 2029 sq. Km stretching from the South china
Sea almost to the Cambodian boarder.  Rural regions make up about 90% of the land area of HCMC and hold
around 25% of the population; the other 75% is crammed into the remaining 10% of land, which constitutes the urban
centre.  Unofficially, the city is still called 'Saigon' among the locals as well as those living in Thailand and probably
other surrounding countries.  

On her first night in Saigon, Evelyn met up with a couple of girls, Astrid and Christine from Copenhagen who had a
tour guide who invited all  of them to a talent show at one of the night clubs.  The show was super, solo singers,
duets and hip hop groups performing in Vietnamese.

Our Tour Guide
Here's Evelyn with Astrid, Christine and Katrine a Berlin high school teacher.                

                                       Talent performances that night . . . . .

The main purpose of Evelyn's visit was to learn about 'The Vietnam War' referred to by Vietnamese as 'The
American War'.  One way she chose to do this was to visit the
Cu Chi Tunnels in Ben Dinh.  At first glance, there is
little evidence here to indicate the intense fighting, bombing and destruction that went on in Cu Chi during the war.  
To see what went on, you have to dig deeper - underground.    The tunnel network of Cu Chi became legendary
during the 1960's for its role in facilitating Viet Cong(VC) control.  The tunnels were first built to fight the French in
1948 as a bomb shelter for four Cu Chi families.  At it's height, the tunnel system stretched from the South
Vietnamese capital to the Cambodian border, in the district of Cu Chi along, there were more than 250 km of tunnels.
 The network, parts of which were several storeys deep, included innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living
areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens.  While in Cu Chi Evelyn
purchased a silver cigarette lighter for 90,000 Dong, sounds like a lot, but converts to only $6 US.

ed area is HCMC and yellow are the tunnels.
Model view of the tunnel system.                                                     

Exit and entrance to the tunnel.

                                                                                                               A typical Viet Cong trap.

                                                       The underground kitchen with hidden vents.

A demonstration of a trap.

                                                The surgery room.                
                                                                                                               Viet Cong dress.

After crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels our group got to sample the food the Vietnamese ate during the American
War.  It was not very good.  Quite bland but filling.

MEKONG DELTA - Pancake flat but lusciously green and beautiful, the Mekong Delta is the southern-most region of
Vietnam.  The Mekong River is one of the world's greatest rivers and its delta is one of the world's largest.  The
Mekong originates high in the Tibetan plateau, flowing 4500 km through China, between Myanmar and Laos, through
Laos, along the Laos-Thailand border, and through Cambodia and Vietnam on its way to the South China Sea.

Evelyn took a day trip to the Mekong Delta which included seeing how peanut brittle and pistachio toffee are made.

Lunch and bicycle riding
were included in the
Mekong Delta tour.   The
food was nicely presented,
fresh and delicious as you
can see.

Some of the local people we met while bicycle riding.

The guide for the day was humorous and informative.  He discussed specialties of the area are, rice wine, 40%
alcohol, small sweet pineapples and jasmine rice.   Another specialty is snake wine made from poisonous snakes.  If
the snake is small it's used for snake wine, and left in the bottle.  If the snake is large it is cooked and eaten.  Her
guide told us that the local people eat fruit bats, fried leaches, turtles and drink turtle blood, which tastes salty and
they eat dogs too.  One has to go to a special dog restaurant to find dog meat.  The locals don't eat their pets, but
maybe the neighbor's pet dog  

On Evelyn's last day in HCMC she visited the
War Remnants Museum - Once known as the Museum of Chinese
and American War Crimes, the museum's name was changed to avoid offending Chinese and American tourists.  
The American War lasted from about 1963 to 1975.  During this time eleven different nationalities were reported
dead and listed on one of the walls in the museum; Americans, Australians, Austrians, British, Cambodians,
Germans, French, Japanese, Singaporeans, Swiss and Vietnamese were among these.
Insert photos of American bomber planes and tanks.


                                                                                      Thorxo abdermine Pagus - Agent Orange - Dioxin kills!

Below is a picture of Evelyn's hotel, MC 184.  Note the names of most businesses are street numbers.   Madame
Cho's group of hotels are highly recommended by Lonely Planet and as expected Evelyn found the staff friendly and
helpful.   She enjoyed chatting with the staff and learning Vietnamese.  -  hello is '
chao',  thank you is 'cam on'.

Next to follow is an email from our Qiwi friend Wayne and his experience in Vietnam just after Evelyn's visit . . . .

Dear All
> There are only 83 million Vietnamese in a place the same size as NZ  so life is a breeze here.
> Much cleaner and happier people than India.  Its hard to believe they are all "the Dirty Commie Rats" that America
thought would pollute the world by the Domino effect.  Although  they dropped 8 million tons of bombs on them .(4
times the total of all of the 2nd world war ) .. . . these guys came  bouncing back with no grudges.  I'm glad they did
as the food is delicious and cheap everywhere.. I eat street food here..and no Dellie belly.A posh restaurant with 2
beers, a starter and main, will set you back about $7 NZD.

Started off in the Mekong Delta, where everyone lives on the water.. . you taxi around in a long canoe to shop in"
streets" all  supported on sticks in the water.  The bigger boats have home made outboards like egg beaters on a
long stick.

Then to Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) that has 4 million little Honda motor bikes that never stop moving. They have big
traffic round abouts  and its a  whirlpool of bikes.  I, of course bought a bag of bits for my 2 little Hondas and spent
hours watching them pull their motors apart with the simplest of tools.  About an hour away is the Cu Chi Tunnels
close to Saigon ..i was amazed  .where the freedom fighters had a huge disappearing tunnel complex that had
the Imperialist American Invaders guessing for 30 years. . .I had a go at firing  an AK 47 here on a target range too. .
the smiling little guard said "me fire too low at target" ... I would now be dead.

These guys fought the Chinese from the North for a 1000 years, the French for 150 years and the Yanks for 30
years..fixing Hondas is easy meat.

The French built a lovely resort in the hills to the north called Dalat.  I stayed there 2 days..when the French left
Vietnam in 1954,they blew up most of their buildings out of spite..arent they cute?  But many still remain and the city
streets still have all the big trees in them. This is so in all the bigger cities , a bit like Paris.

In Nha Trang on the coast i went out on a diving boat for a picnic and then on to Hoi An  which was the most
important sea port for 3 hundred years . .. lots of Japanese bridges and buildings from the traders.  The Ancient
capital of Vietnam in the middle is Hue and it has the Citadel or whats left of it as this was the place where the
war changed in the peoples favour after the Tet Offensive in 1968.  I did a motorcycle trip in the country here to a
little village. Man they are hard workers. The children have school 7am until 11am..home to lunch..then out to work
with mum and dad, the 3 and 4 year olds walk around with the family baby on their back in a sling,  jigging one
leg to stop it crying.  

Stayed right in the middle of Old a modern hotel next to a big lake. This place has a lot of lovely buildings
and a heap of new factories all around it ...eating up all the rice paddies, but the standard of living here is pretty

From here I did a trip to Halong Bay ..that has those 1000's of tall rocks in the water surrouned by junk type fishing
boats with red sails. Its a world heritage site and a famous one for Vietnam.  I stayed overnight on the boat, visited a
pearl farm , and then back to Hanoi for more restaurants and shopping.

After India ..this place is like Queenstown.  Sapa is a hill tribe town only about 3 kms from China, and 7 hours north of
> Hanoi in the train.  I went treking up there with these" Mongolian"  looking people who have still maintained their
ancient colourful tribal dress and head scarves.  All of these are hand made from hemp ..dyed and then decorated  
with the most intricate tapestry designs and colours.  This place is the Vietnam" highlight" of all the tourists I met. I
stayed in a viilage thatched "house" overnight after a 23 km trek and motorbiked back to Sapa the next day.

So ended my 23 days..south to north...tour of  Vietnam.
Off to Thailand in the morning for 2 months.
Regards Wayne