Vietnam - HCMC and Hue - January 2011

Vietnam – HCMC and Hue – January 2011

Our first stop in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, or HCMC for short. Don’t make a mistake of calling it Saigon!

We used Marriott points for a free night at the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Siagon. The free breakfast (from my Marriott status) was amazing and was an international buffett of quality french, chinese, vietnamese and continental food. It was well worth the points.

The city has some of the craziest traffic I have ever seen! It’s mainly motorcycles, there are no traffic lanes, and pedestrian crossings rarely exist. Amazingly, there are some stoplights in places, but during rush hour when hordes of cycles backup and then the light turns green, it sounds likes a nascar race as all the riders rev their engines and jockey for position to get to the next light!

We were reminded constantly of the fact that we were in a communist country. There were many hammer and sickle flags, propaganda posters, dramatic party headquarters and communist monuments. While I had been to China and experienced their propaganda before, this stuff seemed more fresh and pervasive. Since I grew up understanding the war in Vietnam (or “war of american aggression” as the vietnamese call it) from the perspective of an American, it was fascinating and slightly surreal to be in the country that we were at war with not too long ago.

We visited one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area – the Chu Chi Tunnels – on a bus trip from the city. It’s an area of battlegrounds where the communist Vietnamese government employeed guerilla warfare tactics to quickly assualt, ambush and then evade the American troops; a tactic which helped to win the war for them. On the included walking tour we saw some nasty DIY weapons and traps and got to crawl through the teeny tunnels where the north vietnamese lived, fought and died. The last stop was a live firing range, where one can fire live rounds from various vietnam era weapons, including machine guns. The noise from the range echoed through the area and was deafening up close. We declined to purchase any round to fire as it was actually quite expensive and we’d seen enough from the sidelines. I did buy a neat pen that was made from an old bullet casing (which broke less than a week later).

Based on what I saw, it’s hard not to recognize the ingenuity and dogged determination of the north vietnamese in their fight against the “capitalist invaders”.