Thurs 14 Nov Vietnamese War: to the tunnels and back

A hectic day – 8am on coach, through the hugeness and brashness that is Ho Chi Minh City nowadays, a city of 13 million people and 7 million scooters.

Our first trip was to the Cu Chih underground tunnels used heavily by Communist Vietcong in their guerilla warfare which defeated the much greater firepower of the Americans. Had been warned of malarial forest there containing poisonous snakes, but worst encounter was with hordes of other tourists. Some simulations but gave a real feel, along with the various spiked booby traps!

Then on to another brand new experience – that of a Buddist temple (Vietnamese style) but with lots of gods and several safes in front of altars to avoid theft of donations. Small, noisy and didn’t seem at all spiritual but apparently very popular with residents.

The main event for all of us in the afternoon was the national War Remnants Museum, an odd name for a significant reminder not just of tanks and aircraft outside, but of the Requiem exhibition of actual war photos. These were taken largely by war photographers most of whom were killed getting their shots, and are no holds barred. An exhibition all should see. Very moving, particularly those containing women and children. Just as graphic were those depicting the impact of Agent Orange attacks and the horrific bodily defects in births afterwards – several people had to leave this room since they had had their fill of horror. Apparently American visitors can be particularly affected…

The Long Day

W13.11.19 No matter how much room we had on the  plane, it had been  hard to sleep at all. Arrived in Bangkok in early morning smog and to long slow security queues for transfer flight to Ho Chi Minh City (old Saigon) – people grumpy from tiredness and some tense from  missing the tight connection on  previous trips

By HCM, tropical heat hit us & rooms not yet ready – had to do impromptu shedding of UK layers + leave cluster of cases & bags in 5 star hotel lobby … To keep us awake a  short orientation walk, but it proved hard to focus.
Glorious interlude when could absorb quiet swimming pool atmosphere surrounded by old balconies festooned with greenery.

Final test for day came for evening meal around different stalls on street markets – the real deal for many  Vietnamese – & what a contrast with the hotel!

The long flight

T 12.11.19 Only slight delay of 20 mins, at 12.15 GMT. On an Airbus 380, the Thai Airways livery of pinks and purples is a welcome change, and the traditional silk outfits of the female staff quite stunning! Bulkhead seats a treat and upstairs, but then also offered 2 side seats with window and large side compartments, just behind Business/1st class.