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From 'Ho Chi' to 'Cu Chi'

Thyens reunited in Saigon and beyond

overcast 24 °C

On our return from the delta, we welcomed Lloyd's parents who will be joining us as we journey through Cambodia and into Thailand. Hurrah! Best of all, we wouldn't expect any of our parents to slum it with us (except my Dad ;o), so we've been forced (!!) to book some quite nice hotels over the next week. It's clearly a sacrifice, but you can depend on me to put a brave face on those crisp white linens and spotless bathrooms.

With Lloyd's folks in tow for our last day in Ho Chi Minh City, we took a lengthy stroll through the city. Ben Thahn Market was our first stop where we'd heard you could buy just about anything on the planet. And so we found ourselves wandering through narrow aisles of everything from fruits, vegetables, clothing, shoes, toiletries, and souvenirs. I even saw one woman squatting below another, having her face shaved (not shown below, but photographic evidence is available on request)!

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Colorful market scenes. Wish I could work in my pygamas...

Lloyd's Mom had her first experience of bargaining, and came away with a cotton white shirt that is sure to make an appearance later in the trip. But overall, the experience was maybe a little overwhelming, and not the kind of thing you really want to be facing fresh off the plane...

Next stop was the Reunification Palace which used to be the Presidential Home of US-backed Diem prior to his assassination. If you've heard of it before, it's likely you remember images of the gates being stormed by North Vietnamese tanks in 1975, marking the beginning of a unified, communist country. The picture below shows one of the two tanks that stormed the gates and - if you believe the hype - saved the South Vietnamese from the Americans.

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Three Thyens Reunited at the Reunification Palace!

The interior of the Palace is quite dull unless you enjoy kitschy-70s decor. There are many 'grand' rooms assigned 'grand' titles like Cabinet Meeting Room, or "Credentials Presenting Room", each with microphones and loudspeakers turned on and ready to magnify the voices of high-pitched tour guides rushing through groups of appropriately-disinterested tourists. I was hoping Lloyd would grab a mic and broadcast his rendition of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" to liven things up.

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No singing today, but couldn't stop him from touching....

Most interesting (and understand that's interesting relative to the most dull building I've ever paid to get into) was the basement military area which housed a bunch of prehistoric US communications equipment. And the grandly titled President's Map Room.

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The two LTs discussing the area around Tri Ton, where LT Senior was stationed in 1970 - 1971.

On Friday, we faced a full day's drive out to the Victoria Hotel in Chau Doc, our base for the next three nights. Chau Doc is practically on the Cambodian border and also convenient for a day trip to Tri Ton where Lloyd Jnr and Ingrid will be able to see - first hand - where Lloyd Snr was stationed 36 years ago!

But first! We took a detour to the Cu Chi Tunnels, about an hour north-west of Saigon. Cu Chi is part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail originally developed d

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I didn't think my hips would make it, but looks like I qualify for membership in the Viet Cong. (I was happy until they told me that this entry had been enlarged for westerners!)

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Unlike a previous tourist, Lloyd managed to keep his trousers as he struggled out....

Clambering in and out of the tunnel system was a lot of fun, but I was left wanting more in terms of understanding the tactical importance of the tunnels to the Viet Cong. This is not a factual exhibition in any sense although, to be fair, the promotional material didn't indicate to us that it would be: [the tunnels show] "how the people of Cu Chi lived and fought before and during the resistance against the American Imperialists."

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This tunnel has been heightened by 20cm to allow for westerners. We crawled through about 40 metres of it.

It IS interesting to see how the tunnels were built and operated. And there's no doubt that some of the Viet Cong's methods were ingeneous; all the steam from kitchens was stored in underground chambers, for example, and control-released up to 100 feet away only when it would be masked by early morning fog. But I'm still left wondering whether the extensive display of human-traps was necessary. I'll spare you the graphics, but there were maybe a dozen different cringe-invoking prototypes, each backed with a painted depiction of a presumably-US soldier, successfully trapped by fish-hooked stakes. In the absence of a factual context, this display - to me - felt gratuitous.

Posted by jacquiedro 18:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world

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