Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

It’s probably a bad sign that I struggled for a good 10 seconds to remember what country I’m currently in. Brainfart, over. Blog post can resume. After parting ways with Scotland-bound Jeantte yesterday morning, I made my way to the depot in Phnom Penh and caught a nearly empty bus headed to Ho ChiMinh City, or as most people know it, Saigon. For the sake of brevity (and because it’s what Lonely Plant does), I’ll be referring to the city as HCMC.

After six hours on the bus and a painless trip through customs, I found that once again, Lonely Planet had recommended a top-notch place to stay. After being misled in Phuket, Phonsavan and Vientiane, the past two cities have been a pleasent surprise. My room here in HCMC has aircon, a hot shower, a huge bed and satellite TV, which I may have spent the morning watching. You would too, if your baseball team was one game away from 27 World Series wins.

After I watched the Yankees lose, I hit the streets. Brunch was Vietnamese curry and spring rolls, complete with a banana shake. I decided against walking to my first destination, the War Remnants Museum, as walking in this city is easily one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done. Stoplights aren’t exactly obeyed, which is only a slight problem when you’ve got a few cars on the road. However, it becomes a much bigger problem when you’ve got, at any moment in time, 100+ motos barreling toward you. I was warned about the throngs of motos clogging the streets here, but I never imagined it would be this bad. If a guy decides the street is too crowded, he’ll drive on the sidewalk, then beep at you as though you’re invading his space. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Vietnam, walk a straight path on the sidewalk and hope like hell you don’t get hit.

As I said, my first stop today was War Remnants Museum, which was the only thing I had much interest in seeing at all, really. Now, I should have listened to my mother (here’s anticipating the I-told-you-so comment) when she told me last week not to get on bikes with strangers, not because I’m worried about getting kidnapped and murdered, but because when I climbed off my driver’s bike, my leg hit the exhaust pipe. Now I’ve got a large purple circle on my leg and a blister the size of a half dollar to show for it. Definitely not a good move on my part.

I limped through the museum, which turned out to be absolutely fascinating. Fascinating and stomach-churning, that is. I know about America’s fuck-ups in southeast Asia, believe me I do, but nothing hit me quite like this museum. It is definitely not for anyone with a weak stomach. Aside from the well-known pictures of napalm victims and children affected by Agent Orange, there were disfigured fetuses in formaldehyde (actual fetuses, not pictures), photos of decomposing bodies and the guillotine used at a torture prison in southern Vietnam. I can’t tell you the number of gasps and “Oh my Gods” I heard this afternoon.

I hobbled out of the museum and headed toward the Reunification Palace, originally intended to be the seat of government of South Vietnam. But we all know that didn’t happen. Now the “palace,” which just looks like a government office building, stands as it did thirty years ago. Unexciting, yes. But something I might as well see while I’m here? Yeah.

I was keen to check out one of the markets here–Jeanette and I got into a habit of market-browsing in every city we went to–but my leg was throbbing so I grabbed a moto, sat side-saddle (on the side without the exhaust pipe, thank you very much) and headed back to the guesthouse.

Tomorrow I head up to Hoi An, but I’m not entirely convinced I’ll make it. The latest typhoon has made travel along the coast difficult, stranding some of my friends in random coastal towns, and affecting a few flights. Here’s hoping I make it in one piece, eh??

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