wk 39 – scooters, saigon & sunshine

The traffic in Saigon is organically stunning, as are the powerlines; we spent a few hours sipping a drink, sitting on the edge of the pavement practically in the crossroads in the backpacker zone, watching an incredible show of skill, ebb and flow. It appears completely instinctive, if you’ve watched Baraka, it’s another perfect example of humans imitating nature; the almost subconscious weaving must be formed from birth (and probably before..plenty of pregnant ladies on scooters), when you are squeezed between your parents on the back of a bike with your little brother standing on guard at the front. There must be a ‘things on my moped’ website along the lines of the cat version…must find a link, nope, definite gap in the market then.

It has taken me a couple of days and I’m still not a major fan of the so called backpacking zone, however it’s really cheap, you can walk to everywhere, and oh yeah, it’s really cheap? Given we can’t exactly stay in the Majestic it did the job…

I’m not sure how to put down our experience of the war remnants museum, so I’ll describe how people behaved as it will give you an insight if you haven’t been, and you should.

The museum is surrounded by old tanks, US bombers and helicopters, and in the Saigon sun it all looks quite intriguing and ideally situated for photos, something all those who’ve just arrived clutching their ticket, including me, do without qualms. The mood is bubbly, smiling and interested.

As you move up inside the museum, you can sense the shift, nobody is talking any more, there is an intensified silence, and when you start to look at the photographic exhibition on the third floor, there are visibly upset people, backpackers usually contemplating their next beer look genuinely shaken and a few have even taken a seat and are staring into the distance. 

The experience is a complete leveller, making you feel ill, wanting to burst into tears and you feel pretty guilty about the easy going life you have. I am completely humbled by what happened to this country, and the fact that war torn generations have led and raised a population of generous, gentle, friendly, happy people, with a love of incredible fresh food, family and life.

We are now just off the Southern coast of Vietnam on an island called Phu Quoc, notorious for it’s coconut prison and famous for it’s pungently delicious fresh fish sauce. We’ve managed to luck out completely with a lovely beach front bungalow literally steps from the ocean and an excellent restaurant, until the snorkelling trip down south in a few days we intend to stay put. I’m reading Bourdain’s foodie journey around the world, and ours seems to mirror many of the destinations, enjoying the current chapter on Tokyo, and reading about his love of Vietnamese food whilst here is tantalising.

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