Reality came knocking at the doorstep last week, as the tour did have to come to a halt. That being said, one should preference the “happy that it happened” aspect over the “sad that it’s over” part.
We arrived in Saigon (interchangeable with Ho Chi Minh City) on Sunday morning, and had a few hours to sleep before heading off on a day trip. The city was called Saigon until the North Vietnamese took over the area at the conclusion of the war with the United States, and decided to rename it after their leader, Ho Chi Minh. There was a mix-up with the owner of the hostel, so we were split up into three different accommodations for the evening, although all were very close by. Just like always, Dan (tour guide) handled the situation with class, and there were no complaints from any members of the group.
I really enjoyed our time in Saigon because we got a little taste of the country’s history, and it is eye opening to comprehend how recently decolonization, independence, and the Vietnamese-American War all took place. After our nap, most of us headed off west to the Chu Chi Tunnels. This was the reason why the Vietnamese were able to outlast the superior infrastructure and rich supplies of the Americans. They knew the terrain better than a mother knows its children, and were able to design a sophisticated tunnel system to hide from the bombs. We were able to delve about 100 meters into the tunnel, and I don’t know how the Vietnamese stayed down there for so long, because it was hot and cramped! I’m guessing the majority of the fighters that went into the tunnels were pretty short, or else serious back problems may have risen.
After the tunnels, we all came back and got ready for an event that was not originally on the LBW lineup. VIP tickets to Tiesto’s Budweiser Festival were in store for us, as the night was filled with free flowing Budweiser, loud beats, and plenty of dance moves. The evening was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, although I probably wouldn’t exchange it for any of the cultural experiences indigenous to Vietnam that I encountered.
The next day was our last full one as a group. We slept in until the afternoon, and then headed off to a museum dedicated to the Vietnamese-American War. As an American who understands the failures and miscommunications that occurred during the war, it was intriguing to see exhibit after exhibit portray a one-sided perspective of the “American Genocide” in Vietnam. It was really sad and disturbing to learn that there are still current generations of children being affected by Agent Orange, since it can be passed on genetically. The United States dropped about 7.6 million tons of explosives during the war, and covered the country in harmful gasses.
On a happier note, after the museum, a bunch of us headed to the local markets to shop for some last minute souvenirs, cheap pocketbooks, clothes, and other miscellaneous objects. We then went to a very nice restaurant for dinner, which was Mediterranean-based, but featured a variety of different options. I’ll give the chefs an A+ review, and so will my stomach. The night ended with most going out, but taking it easy, with emotional goodbyes on the way.
I was really impressed/joyful that some stayed out until I had to leave for the airport at 5:45 am, (I was the first one to leave). This trip has definitely been something that will stick with me for the remainder of my life, and has taught me the value of traveling, even if you don’t necessarily have all the means to do so.
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