The southern capitol

Happy 100th post, readers! Now back to the action: remember that we had been scammed just a little bit by the man with the rotten teeth for our bus ride to Saigon.

Stupid with rage, we approached the bank of taxis at Saigon’s bus station 15 km outside of town. With much pained negotiation, we settled on a fare that would take us to city center.

Colin stalked ahead in stoney silence when we got out in the backpacker area, but a lady offering a cheap room was able to catch up with me and talk me into seeing her guest house. Lucky she did–it was a really lovely place. There was a nice common area with a computer and a flat screen TV on which we would watch “Sherlock Holmes,” “Up,” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats” during our three-night stay. The place was so comfortable, in fact, that we didn’t leave the next morning until 2 in the afternoon.

We skipped lunch to get to the War Remnants Museum before it closed at 5:30. Early on in the tour were the displays of the victims of Agent Orange. Pictures of people with mutated appendages or dwarfish qualities were accompanied by names, birth years, and province. Some of the victims were born as recently as 1997. A chart explained that it takes just one tablespoon of Agent Orange to wreck a city with a population of 8 million. The U.S. dropped 21 million gallons of the toxin on the hills of Vietnam. I overheard a tour guide discussing it with an American couple while the woman looked determinedly away from the pair of deformed newborns floating in formaldehyde: “We asked your government to pay for some of the damages, but your government hasn’t responded.”

There was an exhibit upstairs dedicated to the number of photojournalists killed in the war–I found their work and stories most enjoyable, if you can talk about something like that as being enjoyable.

We left in search of dinner, taking the scenic way back to pass Notre Dame Cathedral, the post office, and the Opera House lit up at night.

Saigon has all the scooter traffic (and perhaps more) of any other city I’ve seen, not to mention an apparent disregard for traffic laws that makes crossing the roads a swear-worthy endeavor. However, it also has many tree-lines sidewalks and narrow parks (at least in the city center) that provide relief from the 90-degree heat.

Each of the three and a half days we were there, the lady of the house would sigh: “Today is so hot.” When is it not, lady?

Besides a trip to the bustling indoor market, the rest of our time in Saigon was spent quietly enjoying being in one place for more than two nights.

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