Seeing as we could all benefit from a lye in, the whole group didn’t wake up until 9:40am. Thinking we missed our first meal we continued about our morning rituals. Our friend Chris then came back to tell us breakfast was until 10am. Quickly we darted up the stairs only to receive what I can only describe as the worst meal ever. It consisted of a baguette, 3 slices of tomatoes, 3 pieces of cucumber and 2 sliced baby sausages. To wash it down, a small glass of tea or coffee (of which Sarah’s was half full… Or empty depending on your outlook). To make up for this shocking meal (which cost us all of a dollar) we walked around the corner to a nice bakery. Our cakes were delicious and gave us enough energy for our walk to the War Remnants Museum.
Unfortunately the building didn’t open until 1:30pm. Seeing as the Reunification Palace was on the way we thought we’d burn some time there. I wish we hadn’t bothered to be honest, it cost 30,000 dong to get in and was the most boring place we had visited yet. We had the option of a guide if we wanted, but after the first room we decided we’d go it alone, leaving the rest of the group to enjoy it. All we saw was a couple big conference rooms and a couple tanks outside. The highlight of the trip being when Liam used a stray microphone to project his voice around a room and make funny observations. We left after only 30 minutes and walked for another 10 before reaching the gates of our main activity of the day, The War Remnants Museum.
I was pre-warned about this place by James Breen of the music scene, he explained in a message that it was pretty heavy going but well worth a visit. I didn’t really know what he meant at first, as I am usually someone who isn’t affected by things that I see, but when it came to walking around certain rooms I got goosebumps. Now, you have to be careful what you believe in places like that, as certain pictures could be completely innocent yet the descriptions beside them paint very different stories. For example there was one picture of a mother and child walking from a building, with an American soldier entering through the door. The writing beside said something like “a mother and child being forced from their homes.” Who knows what the truth is, but like the saying goes “you can’t always believe what you read.” On the other hand, there were pictures that quite clearly showed the sick things certain American soldiers did to the Vietnamese villagers. One of which depicted 4 soldiers sat around a beheaded body with the head at their feet. Beside that was a story of an American congressman named Bob Carey. He admitted to barbaric attacks/massacres he committed with several other GI’s, the truth of which had only recently come to light.
After walking around the first room, which contained pictures of happy children after the war, I thought we were going to be in for a boring visit. But like I said, I got goosebumps in the second room which contained all the previously mentioned points. It was so interesting in fact that for the first time ever I read every single placard beside each picture/object/item. It only got worse from there. When we climbed another set of stairs to the next rooms, we were confronted by all the horrors of the war. There were pictures of children who had become deformed from bombings. Lands and villages which were reduced to ashes. We witnessed the devastating effects of the horrendous Agent Orange. The museum even went as far as having a couple formaldehyde foetuses in a tank. In another room we visited were loads and loads of American weapons. The most shocking thing was that Vietnam had nowhere near the firepower America had, yet they still won the war using guerrilla tactics. The weapons were in order of strength, it began with pistols, then moved to machine guns, heavy machine guns, powerful rifles, all the way to rockets launchers and anti-tank missiles. When we had seen everything inside, we went on to explore the grounds outdoors. By this point I was feeling mentally exhausted and began skim reading. There was only so much information I could take in in one day.
Outside were various war vehicles, very similar to that of the museum in Hanoi. They had planes, tanks, helicopters, bulldozers, boats, and a plethora of bombs to be admired or feared. The final area outside was that of torture methods, employed by the Vietnamese upon the Vietnamese prisoners. The torture tactics made for very hard reading, with toe and finger nail removals, live burials and whipping to be but a few. There were also displays of how the prison conditions would have looked for the unlucky few that ended up there, one nasty punishment was that of tiger cages. These were slightly bigger than a decent rabbit hutch and were made completely out of barbed wire. They would hold 3-5 or 5-7 depending on their size, and each person was never able to fully sit upright inside of them. When we had finished our visit (some three hours later) we left with conflicted hearts. On the one hand it would have been very easy to leave, hating the Americans for what they did. On the other we were educated enough to know that some of the things we read might have been propaganda to entice you into believing something else.
On our way back to the hotel Liam, Jamie and I were contemplating a visit to the tall financial building to get a view of the whole city. We decided to do it later that day, then the four of us went for food instead. We visited the Italian restaurant Sarah and I went to the other day, as Jamie wanted some lasagne. I had forgotten how pricey the place was £4-7 a meal for certain dishes, which is the same price as three different meals at other places. When their food arrived they weren’t happy as it was stone cold in the middle. During lunch a lady came in selling books (they were all photocopies but were really cheap). Seeing as the movie adaptation of Life of Pi was out now, I thought I’d give the book a read. I bought two books. The second was based on a true story about a guy who ended up in a Cambodian prison. According to Liam it was a gripping read (both books only cost me £5.28 which was a steal really). After food we went around the corner to book up a day trip for the next day to the Mekong River, as well as a bus for the day after to our fourth country, Cambodia. With all our trips sorted we returned to the hostel for an hour or so before the guys headed out to get a view of the city. Not knowing if the place had a dress code, before we left I popped next door to grab myself a smarter pair of board shorts. Luckily they had one last pair in my size, I put them on and off we went. It wasn’t that far a walk from the hotel, roughly 20 minutes, joining us for the night ahead was another Irishman named Steve.
When we entered the 68 floor building it saw us parting with 200,000 dong (£9.60) in order for us to reach the level with a 360 degree view of the city. The staff ushered us into the lift then sent us up to floor 48. An ear popping ride later we had arrived, we were then told to climb a small flight of stairs so we could ride one more elevator to the bar. It’s not everyday I find myself being in the start of a bad joke, but when Liam, Jamie and myself walked out of the lift it was essentially an Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman walking into a bar. We were then on the 50th floor of the building, as well as having a bar it also boasted a panoramic view of the city. Needless to say I took plenty of photos during the visit, but was sad to part with 120,000 dong for one drink plus an additional 5% for service charge and another 10% for tax. This made our drinks 138,000 dong (£6.62) for one glass of beer. The worst part was, that money could have fed me for three days. I took solace in the fact I would never be there again and that it was all part of the experience. Conscious that Sarah was alone back at the hotel, and knowing her probably bored, I left the guys to carry on drinking before jogging back to go out for food with her. It transpired that I didn’t have to run back, as Sarah was quite contented with the book she was reading and said to me that I didn’t have to cut my night short on her part. Sweating and slightly annoyed, I made Sarah come out for food regardless.
We ate at a restaurant a few metres up the road from our usual place. We both ate a chicken curry, the food was lovely but we didn’t like the fact we had to stare at another restaurant named Coriander. The reason being, both of us loathe the horrible herb, it’s name alone was enough to turn our stomachs. When we paid the bill we were all set to return to our hostel for a lovely nights sleep. However, when we told the guy behind the counter (who spoke very little English) we wanted to stay one more night he said “no.” What had happened was they sold out all the beds, including ours, to a big group. Which explained why in the morning the lady didn’t ask us if we wanted to stay another night like usual. I couldn’t help feeling that’s no way to run a business. What happened was they kicked out four people to make more money by selling a whole room. The worst bit was they probably wouldn’t have told us until the next evening when we got back from our day trip. I think they’ll be the first hotel we give a bad review to somehow (what a very British thing to do Ben, yes I know, they will feel the full force of my vast vocabulary). This then meant the pair of us would have to walk around the street until we found another hotel. It didn’t take long, two hotels later we found a place offering a private room for three people for $8 dollars a night. We put a down payment on it for the pair of us and Jamie, and told them, “we’d be back at 6pm the following day” (much like a punctual terminator). We were then able to return to our hostel safe in the knowledge we had a roof over our heads the next day. I then spent a couple hours that evening in bed writing my blog, while Sarah told everyone who came back the bad news. It was around 2:00am before I was done and I had to be up for 7. Do you now see just how committed I am to writing for you my beloved fans!! Xx