28 April 2009

Good Morning Vietnam!

A few weeks ago we decided to celebrate Cambodian New Year (& its weeklong public holiday)
by taking a trip to explore Vietnam.

We hopped in a boat with our friends, Amie & Steve, & headed down the Mekong River to Vietnam, a land of dragons, contradictions, sadness & most surprisingly, a land of restoration & rebirth.

We fell in love.

We very surprised by how much more developed Vietnam is, compared to Cambodia. It was much cleaner & tidier (no piles of garbage in the streets!), the traffic was very busy but quite orderly, there were no giant Lexus SUVs taking up the roads, everybody wore helmets and not a single motor bike had more than two people on it!

In Ho Chi Mihn we drank delicious bubble tea.

We hired moto drivers & rode out to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

They were a network of tunnels & booby traps (made from bamboo, former hunting techniques, quite gruesome indeed!) made by the Viet Cong to evade & harm the American troops during the war. It was disturbing & fascinating to see the conflict from the Vietcong perspective. At the end of the tour, there was also a firing range where tacky tourists could pay $10 to fire an AK47 or various machine guns at a rifle range. An old Vietnamese war vet was telling us his stories about the horrors he lived through while wincing from the sound of these ridiculous tourists firing off weapons for fun...

Speaking of pacifism, we also went to the American War Museum (formerly called the american war crimes museum) it was gut wrenching & horrific & made us feel like weeping for all the needless blood shed, on both sides, in vain trying to protect the world from a communist Vietnam. The museum depicted such tragedy & loss that I really am at a loss to say anything more, just that we left with a profound sense of sorrow.

On to brighter things...

communist Ho Chi Minh is now a beacon of capitalism & we could not believe the swanky stores we saw. Louis Vuitton! Calvin Klein! Marc Jacobs! Oh my!

Feeling like we should indulge in this western deluge while we could, we enjoyed an evening of Pizza Hut (!!!) & a movie at a real theater. Unfortunately all that was showing was Race to Witch Mountain, a Disney movie starring the Rock. Oh well, we still enjoyed the pizza, popcorn, & air conditioning!

From Ho Chi Minh, we headed to Dalat, a mountain town about 5 hours northeast.

In Dalat, we met up with “An, the man who cAN”, a moto driver who spent several days with us, showing us all around the surrounding countryside, showering us with tales from his time fighting with the South Vietnamese army & his time in “re-education camp” after the South surrendered & drinking lots of rice wine.

It was great to travel around via moto & Dalat was cold, which we loved, because Phnom Penh has been so hot. We saw beautiful waterfalls,

a cool passion fruit grove,

a silk factory, (*picture by amie)

an old French train station,

& Vietnamese pagodas.

We also hiked a cool mountain & got to swimming in a big lake after.

It was exhilarating & refreshing to be away from the heat & chaos of Phnom Penh.

(* crazy house pictures by amie)

In Dalat, we also visited we also visited the Crazy House. A guest house designed by a former Vietnamese leader’s architect daughter who appears to be some sort of Yoko Ono. But it works great for architecture! This building was part Dr. Suess, part Dracula, and maybe part melting Smurf house!

In the end, it seemed entirely fitting that we were in Vietnam for Easter. The overwhelming feeling we came away with, was that Vietnam is a country that has been resurrected!


SuJ'n said...

wow, these photos are amazing. this trip looks like it was amazing...

amber said...

I agree with SuJ'n!

Zack said...

No doubt that neon Jesus helped with the resurrection.

Thanks for posting these shots, Vietnam looks fantastic! And it looks like you guys had a lot of fun there! But one question remains: how was the pho?

adriana said...

yay yay yay!! i was so happy to see another blog post and what lovely pictures and a lovely time you seemed to have!! how fun and interesting. as always, you're both so darn cute! thanks for sharing. your comments about the war musuem and the history there reminded me so very much of guatemala.