After exploring my option for the next 2 day, I set out to see Saigon – First impressions were a little disappointing. Once called the “Diamond of the Far-east” with the luxury level overriding that of Hong Kong or Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is now the most populated city in Vietnam, with something like 8 or 9 million people and me. Simply said this is one big ass city but other than a very cool skyscraper, that I did not expect to see, it was kind of unremarkable. Well it does have a stunning displays of colonial architecture and exquisitely carved pagodas. Just the same I set off to explore, starting in District One, the old section. First up was the Revolutionary Museum, with my grasp on the local language I ended up at the Reunification Palace — Well they do both start with an“R” — As I walked in it was easy to imagine the helicopter removing the fortunate few from the roof, while thousands fought and screamed outside the fence like we have all seen in the movies and some of you on TV live. As a side note, I was actually surprised to learn the former American Embassy had been torn down. I did “Smillie” special tour of Opera House, People Committee Hall, Cathedral of Notre Dame, History Museum before making my way to my original destination, the Revolutionary Museum or War Museum.
Revolutionary Museum – This museum was formerly known as the Exhibition House of American War Crimes. The museums exhibitions include some the most disturbing shocking photographs taken by war journalists from all over the world of the Vietnam War (I only sapped 2 photos inside and not sure I want to remember them, a real guillotine, a simulated “tiger cage” prison and jars of deformed fetuses blamed on Agent Orange etc…
In hindsight, I think I could have passed seeing the representation of the “American War” from the winners point of view – I am accustom to the Americans putting the content into our history books and museum’s.
Next up a quick walk through Ben Thanh Market before lunch. Here, you will find practically every staple commodity imaginable except automobiles and real estate. I was surprised by the price of thing, not the good prices I would have expected – Lots of tourist, and not a lot of locals shopping and therefore did only a little wandering among the tiny, packed stalls – it was lunch time anyways.
Pho (Noodle Soup) – is arguably the most famous food of Vietnam. My first exposure to it was at Pho 24 outside the main market in Saigon. Pho is served all day, breakfast, lunch, dinner and at 2:00AM when after a few to many Saigon Beer’s at the famous Apocalypse Now Bar! I ordered my Pho with the works or as they say in Vietnam “Pho All” this included Filler, well-done flank, brisket, soft tendon tripe, muscle and well-don brisket, beef meatballs or so the menu said, next time I will skip the tripe – although it was not that bad!
Back to the hotel to check out and see if my driver shows. I packed my back pack with what I thought I would need for a day and a night in the Mekong Delta and check what was left with the bell man before getting into a car with a map and a driver… is this what Charlie Sheen felt like when he was in Saigon before heading up the river?