Tuesday, April 3, 2012

City of Motorcycles (and crazy cabbies) and great spirit.

How did i miss this? I have no idea that this was not published. I'm aware that i have been abandoning the blog for some time but this was actually written! I had to re-write the entry to make it less outdated. Anyways, this is about the city of Ho Chi Minh f.k.a.Saigon. A city i visited in 2010.

It was actually my second visit. The first time being a couple of months before when i went to accompany a friend on a short stay.

This time though, i thought i'd go with the husband to help me with some load, hehehe. And to say my thanks, i took him to places where i knew he would definitely enjoy ;) Places i saw from the first visit and thought of him instantly (and then with the help from google, of course). I don't really know the place that well. In fact, it's rather quite the opposite since i was worried that the cabby would dump us in the middle of nowhere - more than once - because we couldn't come to terms with him on the fare! The cabbies were a nutcase! Let me just warn u here.

I've made a point to keep the address of the places we were heading to from biz cards and receipts i have collected from the earlier trip to show them to the cabbies since, well, i don't speak Vietnamese and they don't speak/understand English too well so they would look at these addresses and said, "OK!" (with such confidence too, if i may add!). And then, they ended up going in circles, even to the point asking other people and told us to get into another cab but we still have to pay them in FULL! Wtf! I was at a boiling point going back from the Cu-Chi Tunnel but tried to remain calm especially after seeing so many Americans were killed by the Vietkongs at Cu-Chi. Mind you, the cab meters were showing at two zeros or so, that's in our RM, not peanuts! With the help of a diagram drawn by the Mr. with such lack of patience (and artistic flair), we manage to level with the crazy cabbies in the end. I'm just thankful we got back to the hotel safely -__-"

[Some word of advice: Do NOT try not to be too adventurous or too thrifty. Just pay extra and hire a tour guide for the sightseeing and save the huge headache!]

Now, i have never seen so many motorbikes in my entire life! They carry almost everything on these bikes too! From a bundle of nice smelling steamed sweet-corns to livestocks to a mountain of crops and breads, even a 2-door refrigerator! Can you imagine that? I didn't get to photograph all this (because i was busy being too worried in the cabs) but i promise you some the next time, if time permits. I also honestly do not know how i would manage to cross the roads in the City without my husband by my side as you have to be really and i mean REALLY Gung-ho to brave the bikes! It was so scary. One more thing about the people here.. they honk about every 4 seconds, maybe 2! It's just nuts! But they are very hardworking people! Children of all ages are selling something and they sell anything almost everywhere. They would park their bikes at the side of the road and sell chickens. The place doesn't have to be strategic or appropriate. They carry businesses wherever they seem fit, so to speak. They are such survivors.. i just admire the energy! And it made me realise how lucky we are to be living in a country with lots of privileges.

I shall leave you to some photos taken during the visit now. Mostly of us, though. As the ones of the other people are mostly blurred. Sorry.
Above: My guide for crossing the roads :)
The city was showered with lights as it was only days away from CNY.
Below: Me in front of an exquisite building. Served once as a community hall. I think it's a hotel now.
Very much influenced by French architecture.

At the War Remnants Museum:

Who doesn't love big tanks, yes? Hehe

Some sick photos of cruelty and inhumanity:

This one has a caption: Mostly women and babies. They looked as if they tried to get away.
So heartbreaking ;(

..more of women and babies.. they look like they're innocently asleep.

Left: local victims being dragged by a tank leaving them without a face. How cruel is that?!
Right: an inhumane soldier proudly holding up whatever is left of a human body.

The prison.
There were only one cell on each side of the original building left and some drawings were made to reflect the cells during the war (the doors behind us was just a drawing).
They even had human figures of the real prisoners from back then made and placed in the cell. Very creepy.
The 2 cages above are being used to stuff 5 prisoners and 3 prisoners in a cage respectively all at once.

At Cu-chi (pronounced "Khu-chee") Tunnel:
This was the highlight of the trip. One of the most memorable place i've ever visited.
Top left: me in one of the tunnel (that has been widen)
Centre (first row): me with a hole made for shooting enemies from below
Far right: the guy in green (guide) was showing us the few types of booby traps
Bottom (2nd from right): Air vents that was built similar to an ant hill
Bottom (far right): us having ubi rebus with ground peanuts and sugar. A taste of the staple food during the war.

We went down to Level 2 of the tunnel for only about 10 metres which was about 6m deep and were panting like mad before we even reach the exit!
[i couldn't help but notice that my husband's t-shirt was very cu-chi appropriate!]

The tunnel took 20 years to complete and was dug only by using small hoes and baskets. Built very systematically, it consists of 3 levels that held up to 6 underground villages, complete with hospitals, meeting rooms, resting areas, kitchens, family rooms, wells and emergency water escapes. The doors to the tunnels were made of special wood that expands when in contact with water, making the doors water-proof. (They really thought of every detail, it's just so impressive!). The doors and tunnels were also made just to the size of the locals. The foreigners have bigger built so they couldn't fit into it. Even these 2 foreigners had to go into the ones that was made bigger!

We were also told that there were no markings whatsoever to the entrances too. The people actually find the places by memorizing where the doors were actually located. Surely not made for the weak minds, and even weaker spirit. During the war, both men and women would have a rifle on one hand, and a gardening tool on the other - to fight the enemy and to make food to survive.

A photo that captured the happiness in the harshness of war.
A couple welcoming their baby.

Miss oily face (trying my best not to make the panting visible here) with a photo of a prominent heroine that fought during the war after losing her parents.
She is now residing in Ho Chi Minh City, aged 60 plus.

Check us out in action!
Trying out the Kalashnikov!
He hit on the target once.
Moi? Well, not even close.
So not war material, the both of us! Sigh..

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