Friday, October 21, 2011

On our way to Saigon, we stopped at the largest Viet Cong base in the south. The rains had flooded much of the site, so we couldn't visit most of it. Instead they arranged for us to travel through the jungle swamp on little wooden boats. From there we could see the tents of the commanders, land mines on bamboo stakes used to blow up helicopters, and huge holes where bombs had landed. There was just two of us in each boat, with a woman paddling us around. The women were wearing the black pajamas that the Vietnam Cong wore,and our guide said that most were children of the VC.

It was a total jungle swamp experience, and I was on the verge of hysteria the entire time. After we were done and safely on the bus, our guide told us that it was also the home of large pythons, primarily living in the water. Luckily, no one on our bus saw any.

The last stop on our trio is Saigon, or officially, Ho Chi Minh City. It is very different from Hanoi, much more "western". It is a city of 10million people, with 3 million motorbikes. Crossing the street is an adventure, because like Hanoi, you have start walking and hope they stop for you. At streetlights, there can be a dozen bikes across, with dozens close behind.

We visited the former presidential palace, where the president of South Vietnam lived and conducted business.

It is preserved as a museum - with the "war room" untouched, showing the maps, and phones where they planned their strategy.

The strangest part was the actual tanks on the lawn that were used to break through the gates as the North took over, arresting the President.

TanMan also visited the War Museum, where there were many pictures, guns, helicopters, etc, highlighting the US atrocities in the war and their defeat. I decided I had seen enough of the 'American War', so I sat and knit Hexipuffs for a while and visited their large market for some shopping.

We visited the outdoor bar at the Rex Hotel, one of the places listed in the book, "1000 places to visit before you die", and shopped at the large market, where negotiating is the name of the game. I bought a few more souvenirs and a few cotton tops for me.

We had to visit a jewelry market, and TanMan found a jade ring that is his early Christmas gift from me.

I found a ring also, and it is a birthday present for me.

I hope they are the real thing!

The city is hot and humid, and even the places with a/c seem hot too. I have never spent so many days in dripping hot weather. Really. Everything you have on is wet by the end of day.

I have not grown to 'love' Vietnamese food, and you have to be so careful where and what you eat, so every meal in the city has been a challenge. One of the men in our group became very sick with food poisoning, his wife is a physician and she didn't dare leave him alone. I had some GI problems in Saigon, but nothing too bad - I consider myself lucky!

Everyplace we stayed - from 5 star hotels to the river boat - the water thru the tap was okay to use for showering, but we couldn't drink it - or even brush our teeth with it. They provided free bottled watter in all of the rooms.

We are finally HOME - arrived at our Florida condo around 6pm at night and I was in bed by 6:30.

It took us approx 24 hours to get here - 20 hours of it on three different flights - not to mention the hours spent waiting between flights. I slept 13 hours last night - and am still not caught up on sleep. It will be an early night to bed tonight too.

God Bless America - all you have to do is travel outside the county - and when you return - you will appreciate our wonderful country with renewed love and appreciation.

This has been a wonderful experience, and I am looking forward to returning to Southeast Asia again sometime.

Hmmm, where should we go for or next vacation???

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