Vietnam - Ho Chi Min City
I cannot tell you much about the whole country as I have visited it only for few days and stayed only in Ho Chi Min City. The biggest lesson you get in Vietnam is of course the one about the war.
I had enough time to visit the war museum and the Vietcong tunnels. The museum, apart from showing you a whole collection of military memorabilia like tanks, guns, bombs and even helicopters, guides you through the history of the conflict itself. How it started and why were the American troops in the first place. Then it shows a great deal of history about the worldwide protests and the involvement of journalists into showing the world what was really happening. Not surprisingly the museum has a very strong anti-American sentiment. What was new to me is that it wasn’t reinforcing the feeling of fear or hatred towards the US. It was plainly stating facts and pointing out various things.
What you can do there as well is to try and fire the weapons used during the Vietnam war. Which also means you’re visiting the area accompanied by the sound of gunshots. Initially I had the idea of trying that myself but it felt completely out of place while being there. Just bad taste. The place has heard and seen enough of violence. I didn’t see the point of shooting for entertainment.
The Vietcong tunnels were a different story all together. They left me with admiration for the spirit and a feeling of terror of what human beings can do to each other. The owner proudly showed us the ingenuity of many ways the Vietnamese people were able to hide from Americans and to live underground. Nevertheless, he was also proud of all the ways the enemy soldiers were being wounded or killed.
The most culturally striking thing on the streets was the kind of communism they have there. I know it as sort of a depressing state of mind, empty shops, grey streets etc. Ho Chi Min City was bustling with life, very colourful and full of shopping centers. It’s like a very weird hybrid, were politically they are a communist country, in theory you can create your own party – in practice, don’t even try. The government keeps a very tight ship. But then capitalism was allowed into the shops. I think probably to keep people happy. If you can afford at least some of the things you see in the malls, why would you rebel against your own government, although not a very democratic one. And my impression was as well that it was much cleaner than both Thailand and Cambodia.
I would like to come to Vietnam once more to see more of the country, to experience more of the culture as it was clear that Vietnam is not just a place where there was once a big war.