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Mike & Mag's World Adventure

Vietnam

VIETNAM | Monday, 3 March 2008 | Views [716] | Comments [2]

Well weve been in Vietnam for about 6 days now and it has been really great. We've been in Saigon most of the time, except for 2 days where we went on a southern tour of the Mekong Delta.This is the first place that we've been where we have stepped into the real culture and haven't been accomodated as tourists. Unlike Bali, a lot fewer people speak English and we aren't stuck in a tourist industry.Instead we are mixed in with the real culture. We see how they live,how they work, where they go to school and where they buy their groceries.Not surpizing but there are very few American tourists here. We've seen quite a bit of foreigners here but a lot of them are from Australia, Japan, and Germany. We've been getting some stares because of how tall and white we are and little kids seem to be fascinated by Mike's tatoos and beard!

Our first day here we went to the war remnants museum which was a very real and eye opening experience about the war. They have old American helicopters, planes, tanks, bombs, guns...you name it. But the photographs were what really hit home about how bad it was over here. There was a section about mutated babies from agent orange exposure, even 2 mutated fetuses in jars. Photos of napalm victims, bomb victims, all kinds of casualties. It's easy to understand why the war fucked up so many young men's heads. Interestingly, we refer to it as the Vietnam war and the Vietnamese refer to it as the American war. They also had a recent photo exhibit about the MAG (Mine Advisory Group) showing how the teams are going through villages in places like Cambodia,Angola,and Kosovo and clearing out land mines to make it safe for the people who live there.I guess Cambodia has a big mine problem from the time when Vietnam invaded in the 70's. 

We also went on a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, which is where a group of 16,000 south Vietnamese rebels/guerrillas were fighting for the VC against the US and south Vietnamese. They lived in tunnels and did all of their fighting by surprise attack (booby traps), popping in and out of the ground from tunnels. They also have a firing range where you can pay to fire some of the weapons from the war (Mike shot 10 rounds from an AK 47!) There was a group of 3 American vets in our tour group who came on a trip to Vietnam with their therapist. They all suffered from pretty bad Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and they came back here to face some of their old demons. The tunnels were difficult for them and walking through the bush, hearing the gunfire from the shooting range I'm sure freaked them out.But it's good because they are getting new memories from Vietman, hopefully to replace some of the bad ones.  Talking with them about their views and opinions of the war then and now in Iraq was quite interesting.

Aside from the doom and gloom, the people in south Vietnam are very nice and always give you a smile and a wave.Its hard to believe that a war even happened here. Down in the Mekong Delta we got to see how people live by farming, fishing, and selling their products in the floating markets. You can find anything from toothpaste to tomatoes, clothes to carrots in those markets. It's really amazing! And they do it everyday!

We also went to temple where the people who worship there practice Cao Daism. It's a multi-denominational religion which started in the 30s and is a mix of Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. They pray to the respective statues of Jesus,Buddha, and the Hindu god and a humongous all seeing "eye" which is the main figure in the temple. There are nine levels to the temple, each level being one step closer to nirvana or heaven.It takes 5-10 years for a member to advance a level but there is nobody praying on the 9th level. On the 9th level there are 7 chairs; one for the pope and the others for the respective officials of the church.The chairs are empty because the pope died in Cambodia in the 70's and all the cardinals have also passed away. There hasn't been anybody "worthy" enough to take over the seats so they remain empty.During the prayer there were only 2 people praying at the 8th level so that goes to show how difficult it is to move up.

Tomorrow we move on to Mue Ne which is an area known for beaches and sand dunes. We were reading something about "sand sledding" which sounds like fun. More to report later!

Mike and Maggie

Tags: Culture

Comments

1

Love you two. Be safe- love the stories. Keep them coming.

  Matt Conley Mar 4, 2008 6:55 AM

2

Mike I hope you are feeling better after Bali. Sounds amazing- I will be interested to hear about the locals teaching you about sand sledding! Have fun!

  Ashlee Crowl Mar 13, 2008 1:12 AM

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