Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
I woke up today and lazily laid in my bed for sometime; I then finally showered, dressed, and walked downstairs. I then had one of the two breakfast meals offered by the hostel (eggs, bread, coffee, tea, and fruit (slice of watermelon, slice of dragon-fruit, and a banana)). Finally, I raised enough courage to venture out on to the streets of Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, whatever . . .). I first walked to the Saigon Tourist office to receive a refund on my Cu Chi Tunnels tour I booked the previous day and they did in fact give me my money back (I was worried they would cite some bullshit policy to keep my money). After that business, I then walked to Notre Dame Cathedral to finally gaze at its innards- since it was open at the time. Unfortunately the cathedral does not allow visitors to enter much further than the entrance, so I could not walk around inside and see the altar or sanctuaries beyond the door up close; it looked like a marvelous structure and I enjoyed what I saw, but it was certainly a let down compared to other cathedrals (in Europe) that I had visited – the stained glass was nice. I then exited the cathedral and walked around the historic structure; during my brief walk, I noticed at least four wedding photography sessions going on (three couples and woman seemingly by herself – I was available and willing . . .). I then walked back to the hostel and booked a tour for tomorrow to the Cu Chi Tunnels (it really is a whole lot cheaper); I also had a beer and relaxed in my room before continuing on to my next stop (it was lunchtime, thus all the museums were closed in this city, so I figured I would relax and hang out at the hostel).
I then walked out to see Ho Chi Minh Museum (there are many museums dedicated to him throughout Vietnam) with my umbrella (there was a slight drizzle). I headed southeast and finally came to it; there was a statue of Nguyễn Tất Thành (one of Ho Chi Minh’s original names, along with Nguyễn Sinh Côn and Nguyễn Ái Quốc) in the front of the museum; I then entered inside and to my dismay there were many students inside crowding the exhibition rooms and receiving lectures about this politician’s greatness. I wandered around the exhibits, trying to piece together his history; I saw many photographs depicting him as a great man and I felt like I was not only being duped, but treated like like a moron by all the carefully selected propaganda; everything in this museum showed him as a great man above reproach (I imagine our presidential libraries are exactly the same, which is laughable considering the last nine presidents we had), but anyone with a shred of functioning intelligence knows that politicians are far from perfect and most are downright wicked (I can’t help but think of Woody Allen’s quote: “. . . you know the ethics those guys have. It’s like a notch underneath child molester.” – this quote is more true than you or I realize). With these thoughts coursing through my mind, I found it abominable that after Ho Chi Minh’s death in 1969, people began to make shrines and altars to worship him; the museum had several examples of these shrines and altars and showed pictures of many others littered throughout the country; personally I do not condone idol worship and I believe all idols should be objectively scrutinized, criticized, and stricken down to reality (e.g. JFK and all that “Camelot” bullshit – what nonsense); the real Ho Chi Minh certainly does not match the idol: it is believed that as many as 500,000 North Vietnamese died during his reign due to his policies and, in 1956, approximately 6,000 peasants were massacred in Nghệ An Province by the People’s Army of Vietnam in response to a revolt against taxation. One last point to make: throughout the museum I noticed that many of his quotations displayed on the walls justified the “reunification” of Vietnam by using race, language, and culture (i.e. all Vietnamese people should be united under one country); this antiquated way of thinking is still being used today (e.g. Vladimir Putin – who is probably at least ten notches below a child molester) when instead people should be united based on ideas; the North and South should’ve remained separated based on how they wished to live and be governed, but sadly both sides could not live and let live. I did learn that Vladimir Lenin was an idol of Ho Chi Minh’s and he was greatly saddened by his death. After touring the museum and its grounds, I walked back to the city’s center.
I walked to the Saigon Opera House to buy a ticket to tonight’s performance of the A O Show (pronounced “Ah Oh”), which was scheduled to start at 18:00 (it was just about 16:00). I then walked around to try and find a place to eat, but being near an Opera House did not help since everything was overpriced for the upper class and bourgeoisie crowd (isn’t this a communist country?); I ended up at a Starbucks (yeah capitalism!) and had a Java chip frappuccino, a French cheese cake, and a bread pouch with peanut butter inside. After that high-sugar meal, I then walked around the area around the Opera House for sometime until it was 17:30 and I could enter inside. I sat down in the seat I had purchased and waited for thirty minutes until the show started. The show was an amzing display of acrobatics, creative choreography, and awesome music (produced on traditional instruments and an electric guitar). Overall, it was quite impressive and appeared to show highly-stylized scenes from traditional village life to urban city life (there were also sketches that involved the performers acting like turtles and ducks); it mostly used bamboo shafts and rattan baskets as props. After that amazing show, I then walked back to the hostel; along the way I passed by Ben Thanh Market (which was very lively – and annoying – at night) and I stopped at a convenience store where I bought a bottle of Dalat white wine. Once back at the hostel, I showered (I stank from walking most of the day) and then drank my bottle of wine (it had a strong taste of flowers and hay with a hint of grapefruit; it wasn’t very palatable and it was also one of the clearest wines I’ve ever seen, but I drank it down regardless); I then typed out today’s journal entry whilst listening to some classic Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes and other songs produced during the Vietnam War. I then had some more beer (purchased at a very cheap price at the hostel) and self-produced good times . . . but I couldn’t escape the thought of ending it . . . hmmm. Fortunately, I then fell asleep and put all deep thoughts to rest.