Sunday, 5 February 2012

Day 2 in Saigon The War Museum

War remnants museum

Having survived day 1, it's a stroll along Pham Ngu Lao towards the market area. Ben Thanh is a big bus station, a big roundabout and a big market. The market Isn't huge by Asian standards but is quite typical in being repetitive. It is clean though, very clean infact, clean enough that I feel confident in eating here. Bowl of noodle soup is $1.5 from most of the outlets, meat or fish dishes will add another $1. Endless stalls selling tee shirts, and all the same designs too as 1 walk through the covered market looking for an exit.

The war museum is the place to see relics and learn facts about the Vietnam's most recent war, the one that ended in the mid 70's. There have been others and are detailed elsewhere in the city, but this is the era I grew up in and so holds the most interest. According to the map it's a good walk from district 1 but navigation looks quite straight forward. Street names can be confusing at first, looking quite similar in the written form, but the layout seems to be based on the grid system.

The war museum is closed, re-opens at 1.30pm so off to find somewhere to sit around and kill a couple of hours. Windows cafe, according to a few websites is the place locals like to go and chill out. It's just a few blocks further on, easy to find as I noted the address followed the map. It's big, on 2 levels and has a good atmosphere with music videos pumping out a good mix of tunes. It's a place for locals alright, just a couple of other tourists there. A coffee here is £1.40, and there isn't much of it either. That's seems to be the norm in Saigon. Rarely do they use fresh milk, it,s always sweetened condensed milk, with coffee being filtered through a pot on top of the glass, ending up with just a thimble full of strong coffee. Top coffee tip here. Ask for a bigger glass, pour in the coffee then ask the staff to fill it up with boiling water. After that, the coffee is good!

The entrance fee is 15,000 dong, that's about 50p. It's a big place, looks relatively new with exhibits immediately beyond the gate. The War museum, Saigon, is a  comprehensive account of the conflict, all from the Vietnamese standpoint of course, but since I wasnt around for most of it, i cant really make a judgment on wether some of the facts are somewhat skewed as some guide books suggest. A good collection of captured American hardware on display here with a large transport helicopter taking prominence. They all look in reasonable condition too, if a little faded here and there. Next to the hardware is a mock up jail as used by the Americans, complete with torture teqniques and a host of photos with explanations. Quite gruesome pictures and accounts of individual suffering.

Inside the modern 3 storey building is where things really get a gruesome - not for the squeamish as there is one photo of an American holding up a decapitated Vietnamese body.
The use of  'agent orange' is given a complete room within the building. A chemicals sprayed from the air over jungles and plantations to flush out the Vietcong destroying all vegetation at the same time. Many accounts of how the chemical has effected the lives of ordinary people since, with deformities widespread. More of the same throughout the building interspersed with displays of guns, grenades and a few bombs etc.  Needless to say the world is reminded of American conduct whilst trying to hold the tide of communism in the Far East and plenty of wall-space is dedicated to the destruction caused by B-52 carpet bombing campaigns. An interesting and thought provoking few hours, with many of the accounts and photos  captured in digital for later reading.

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