Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon, Vietnam (also known as Ho Chi Minh City) is a bustling and vibrant city, and a great introduction to Vietnam. 

The first thing that stood out to me were all the motos!!! I've become accustomed to seeing motorbikes and scooters everywhere we go--they're such a common form of transportation in Southeast Asia--but Vietnam, and especially Saigon, took this to a whole new level. Wow. I'm talking hundreds of motorcycles waiting at a red light. Unlike cars, motos can creep up to the front of an intersection at a red light, so by the time the light turns green, there is a pretty good group of motos ready to take off at once. During our time in Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia, I started to call this little phenomenon a "motorcycle brigade". Wow, I've never seen such large motorcycle brigades as I saw in Saigon. It was awesome!

{Here you can see all the motos lined up at a red light, ready to take off the moment it turns green.}
{Our first night there, we ate Pho (pronounced "Fuh"), a traditional Vietnamese meal of noodle soup with beef. It was delicious, but by the end of our time in Vietnam, I started to get sick of this common meal.}

{Communist propoganda posters are found EVERYWHERE in Vietnam! It's crazy how old-school the graphics are. It's like they haven't changed anything since the 60s.}

{Maintenance worker at the Museum of Vietnamese History}

It was interesting to spend an afternoon at the War Remnants Museum, especially as an American. Vietnam tells the narrative that they won the war completely, but the truth is that America's goal for fighting this war was to prevent communism from conquering SE Asia, and they did just that. While Vietnam is technically a communist country, they have made so many reforms over the years allowing for capitalist practices that it definitely cannot be considered true communism. Despite this, everyone in Vietnam, especially North Vietnam, loves to tell Americans that they beat us in the war.

{One night we visited a pagoda and noticed lots of people gathering inside. We decided to stay and check out what was going on. It turned out to be a prayer/worshipping ceremony. We were sitting in the back and some nice ladies next to us passed over the book which allowed us to chant and follow along the prayers. It was a really cool experience to be able to worship with Buddhists. All the standing and sitting reminded me of the time I experienced a Muslim prayer ceremony in Nazareth.} 

{This is a statue commemorating Thich Quang Duc, the first Buddhist monk to burn himself (in 1963) in protest of South Vietnam's repressive policies against Buddhists. This photo was taken on that day and has become one of the more famous photos in history.}

{Brad, doing some weightlifting outside of the Ho Chi Minh City museum.}

{Saigon's Central Post Office -- of course with a giant painting of Ho Chi Minh in the center}

We visited the Reunification Palace, which was the home and workplace of the South Vietnam president during the Vietnam War. Many meetings and strategy sessions were held here to aid the South in the war effort, with US dignitaries visiting as well. On April 30, 1975 (two years after the US had withdrawn from the war), the North Vietnam stormed this palace, marking the official end of the Vietnam War.  

{Here I am, trying to recreate this historic picture.}

{This is the building made famous in this historic photograph, immediate following the fall of Saigon in 1975 when the USA aided evacuation of thousands of South Vietnamese seeking refuge from their now-communist country.}

On our last full day in Saigon (also my birthday), we spent the day exploring pagodas, which were among the coolest we've seen in all of Southeast Asia. 

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