My final stop in my month and a half tour of Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.
The city itself is much like any other however, the impact of the Vietnam war is clearly shown here. Since I studied the Vietnam War for my GCSEs I always told myself that I would come here as soon as I could afford it. My dream still is to walk on the Ho Chi Minh Trail from north to south however, that was not a journey for this trip.
As a substitute for the full trail I was very eager to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. This vast network of underground tunnels span 250km and we’re vital to the war effort for the Vietcong as it enabled them to run supplies in and out of Saigon. Today only 100m of the tunnels are open to the public and are a major attraction. The tunnel network has no map and is surrounded by traps that were used to scare the American soldiers away. The tunnels themselves are so small that you have to crawl through on your hands and knees. It’s unbelievably hot down there and very scary, yet somehow the Vietcong lived there for 14 years!
Continuing on my historical section of my Holiday, I visited the War Remnants museum. This museum was very thought provoking and has made me think a lot about how to write this.
Without sounding too much like my GCSE history coursework, there are obviously two sides to every story and no one will ever know the full picture of what goes on during a war, however the Vietnam war is very different to the likes of WW1 &2 as it was documented by newspapers.
The war is told in the museum with an obvious Vietnam bias, which facts are true and which have been exaggerated we will never know but the pictures show a horrific story that can’t be argued with.
As many know, the one of the Americans tactics was to spray the land with toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange. This chemical is now in the land and water supplies here in Vietnam and to this day still causes birth deformities affecting 4 million Vietnamese people currently.
As well as chemical ware fare they bombarded the country with missiles and the picture below shows just how dramatically they did it.
Many of these bombs exploded during the war but there are still a lot of unexploded bombs in the country. So much so that since the war has ended 600,000 tonnes of bombs left behind, 42,135 people have been killed by them and 62,143 people left wounded.
The museum just highlighted how shattered this country was left after the war, most of the country was left in severe poverty as all fields were either contaminated with bombs or poisoned soil from Agent Orange, yet the county is on the rise economically and the people here cannot be faulted as they are some of the friendliest and helpful people I have ever met.
To end on a happier note, whilst I was in the south I also visited the Mekong Delta and fulfilled my dream of wearing a rice hat! A month and a half in Vietnam is certainly not enough and I shall 100% be coming back!
Next stop Cambodia!