Day 38 – A day for reflection at the war museum

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Yes, today was definitely a day for reflection.

Myself, Anna and the 3 people from the UK we met last night – Lee, Laura and Emma – headed out together this morning to see the War Museum.

Now, I sadly admit I don’t really know anything about the Vietnam war.  In school I just wasn’t into history.

I know the US was there and there were big protests back stateside but I never really learned why it had happened or what it was all about.

I still don’t have those answers but after today I have the new found desire to read up about it and find them.

Of course the war museum here in Ho Chi Minh City is 100% slanted towards the Vietnamese side of the story.  I’m sure there’s alot to be said from both sides.

But…

This was the side I saw…

Pictures upon pictures and stories upon stories of massacres on the ground and bombs from the sky.

Oh, and Agent Orange.  A whole room devoted to the grotesque images of people who were born with disfigurations years and even decades after their parents were exposed to the toxic chemicals used on them.

It was truly a moment I will never forget.  I felt sad almost the entire time I was in there and was on the verge of tears.

After we toured the museum I stopped by a little gift shop in the corner on the main floor with a sign saying it was run by people affected by Agent Orange.

I wanted to take a picture of this shop and the people (who were indeed affected) working there but felt like it would be a gross intrusion on them as human beings.

So I put away my tourist happy camera and instead bought a bracelet from them.  It was only 15,000 dong (75 cents) and I felt like I should be giving them so, so much more.

Anyway, it is a piece of jewelry that will always remind me of this moment and could become one of my most treasured possessions.

After the museum we all were in a kind of depressed sad state.  It was noon and we still wanted to walk around town and see the other things this city had to offer.

It was so hot and the walking had just wiped us out so we went for some lunch first.  We opted for a nice indoor restaurant with proper seats and air conditioning over the usual street food Anna and I had been eating the last week or so.

Once we had re-energized we walked over to Notre Dame Cathedral.  Just our luck – closed for a couple of hours.

It was 2pm and it was pretty evident that walking several kilometers around a busy city in 34C weather might have been a tad ambitious of us.

Even after the lunch we were just getting our butts handed to us by the heat.

It was time to call it for our little city tour and head back to the hostel.

The others walked but I opted to hop on the back of a motorbike for 30,000 dong ($1.50).

After a nice long hot shower and just relaxing in the room for a bit I finally got my ass in gear and went out to do a couple of things.

I bought my bus ticket from HCMC to Mui Ne for tomorrow morning.  Yes, I know I said I was motorbiking it but I’ve modified my plans a smidgen.

I’ll doing the 6 hour bus ride out of the busy streets of HCMC to Mui Ne and then renting a bike there for a few days there and over to Da Lat.

This way just alleviated alot of the concerns I had – mainly driving out of the big city here on the crazy busy streets.  Now I’m more at ease and I still get to tour some really nice (and quieter) roads for a couple of days.

After all the walking around today I thought I’d go over to a unique massage place recommended by the woman running the hostel..

The massage is only 60,000 dong ($3) for an hour and it’s unique in that all the people doing the massages are blind.

The Vietnam Blind Association is just a stone’s throw from where I was staying so I walked over there and followed the signs labeled “massage”.

I paid a man at a desk my money and was led to room with 6 tables in it all separated by curtains.

And then a blind man dressed in white came over to direct me to my massage table.  Yup, this was gonna happen.

I mean, how do you say no to a blind man?

No, I didn’t freak out or go running for the hills.  I like to think I’m well rounded enough to deal with the situation at a mature level.

So he massaged me.  It was definitely a different and unique experience but if it’s all the same to you I’ll probably opt for female hands on my body in the future…

And that brings us to Anna’s goodbye.

It was just over a week ago when I met Anna.  What was a harrowing afternoon in Da Nang quickly turned around when I met everyone on the bus to Hue later on.

Anna was one of them and after Hue we traveled together to Hoi An and then here to HCMC.  It was really nice to have someone to travel with this last week especially someone whose mindset was pretty similar to mine.

She actually is travelling the same route as me over the next couple of weeks but she’s doing it at a bit faster pace than me because she has to be in Thailand on a certain date while I don’t have to be anywhere at anytime.

I did spend alot of time pondering if I should adjust my trip over the next couple of weeks to coincide with hers but, in the end, I weighed all the pros and cons and decided this was the way to go.

We went out for a last dinner together followed by a crazy hunt for coffee bread (super delicious by the way!) and then I walked her to the bus station around 10:30pm.

We hugged and said our goodbyes and that was it.

Back to travelling on my own… here’s to some more great adventures!

Asia Trip 2014, Trip Journal

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