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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 148: Back in The Nam

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 1 April 2008 | Views [517]

Tuesday 1st April

We were up and out earlier than we were the day before. I wanted to come up with a plan for my onward journey north towards Hanoi, so I enquired at a tour agents as to how much flights would be from HCMC to Danang, a town in the centre of Vietnam. I didn't have a lot of time and had heard that internal flights in Vietnam were very good value, and the price of $60 quoted to me was pretty decent.

One of the more popular forms of transport for backpackers in Vietnam is the 'open tour' bus, coaches that move between major towns on the well-trodden route up and down the coast, between HCMC and Hanoi. They are cheap and usually comfortable, but they are also quite slow and you have less flexibility than you might wish for in terms of where you can go. Considering the lack of time I had, the day and a half that flying would save me provided the best overall value when compared to doing the same journey by bus. The price was good but it always pays to check online before buying, so I put this to one side for the time being.

We pottered about for an hour or two, found a gym and swimming pool that we had earmarked for a visit before we left Saigon, and then had lunch before we went to the War Remnants Museum. This is basically the take on the war as perceived by the victorious North Vietnamese, whose Communist Party now governs the whole of Vietnam. It presents the causes, conduct and outcome of the Vietnam War with some very interesting photographs, artefacts and commentary.

The tone of the presentation was established from the start. When you enter an exhibition called 'Historical Truths', you're under no illusions as to what is going to follow! Although it was very much one-sided, it was nonetheless fascinating, and it also made you wonder at the mistakes made by the US administration and admire the sheer balls and determination of the North Vietnamese in winning out in a war against an enemy with the military might as that of the US. Despite the sometimes irritatingly myopic commentary, it was hard to put up a justification for much of the damage done to the country and its people, and the legacies of the war – the impact on the environment, the effects of Agent Orange on the children of those exposed to it – are all too clear and shocking. One of the most obvious things that came out of it for me was how similar all of this appears to the present war in Iraq.

After we left this museum, we went to try some 'Fanny' ice cream, a parlour in the main commercial part of town. It was very refreshing after a warm afternoon, and we were able to use the free wi-fi to book my flights to Danang online (a total cost of $45 saving me $15 against the price quoted to me by the tour agent earlier in the day).

We had some dinner at the 'Tandoori' Indian restaurant. The food was quite good and it certainly hit the spot. Maria and I were both feeling tired, probably due to the heat, so we went back to the hotel and packed our backs as we were moving to the coast for a few days break from the city, and the bus was due to leave at 08.00 the following morning. I was also planning on setting my alarm to watch the United-Roma Champions League game that was on TV at 01.45, so I resisted the chance to watch 'Jaws' – for the billionth time – and instead got some shut-eye for at least a few hours.


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