Saigon, Vietnam

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After sailing through the visa process without a hitch, we took a taxi to our guesthouse.  We were hungry and dashed out to the closest noodle shop.  It was a typical street food operation with communal tables and plastic stools lining the alley.  I must say the pho we were served tasted just like what you can get in Chicago.

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Good morning, Vietnam!  Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City since the reunification of North and South Vietnam, is a lively city, simultaneously cosmopolitan and traditional.

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Vietnamese hats: lightweight, effective sun protection, inexpensive, made of natural materials, and stylish to boot.

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Hey, I’m walking here!  When traffic gets really bad, the motorbikes ride on the sidewalks.

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Our main priority was to visit the War Remnants Museum.  It’s well worth spending a few hours to go through the exhibits thoroughly.  When I was an eighth grade social studies teacher, I taught a unit on the Vietnam War, or the American War as it is called in Vietnam, so I was eager to learn more.  Some sources claim that the museum is biased.  If showing the atrocities of war is biased, then what is the other position?  Is the Holocaust Museum biased because it doesn’t tell the Nazis’ side of the story?  If in your ethnocentric view, you can’t accept that your own country was the perpetrator, you need to consider your own bias.  Each exhibit in the museum is supported by evidence, and the stories of Vietnamese civilians, U.S. soldiers, photojournalists, victims of Agent Orange, and more are all included.

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The exhibits show how the U.S. government continually found new reasons to escalate the war.  First, it was to support French imperialism and protect the U.S. supply chain of tin and tungsten from Indochina.  Then it was to respond to an alleged attack against U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara eventually admitted never happened.  Or was it to “protect” South Vietnam (by bombing them, of course), i.e. to keep the American-supported puppet government in place?  Was it because of the “domino theory,” to stop the spread of “communism”?  (Aside: I can tell you that the United States is more socialist than the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  There is no public education, social security, or any government benefits.  To quote a Vietnamese tour guide we met, “Vietnam is socialist in name only.”)

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The United States dropped almost triple the number of bombs on Vietnam than it did in World War II.  What would Americans stand to gain if they had won the war?

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This is one of the stories I found most disturbing.  I read that the former senator recently became the head of a new American university in Vietnam.

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After a serious day, the nightlife of Saigon elevated our spirits.

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Of all of the big cities we visited on our trip, Saigon was my favorite.  I could have spent at least a couple more days there.  Definitely belongs on my “places to revisit” list.

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While in Vietnam, I became infatuated with the propaganda style art from the sixties.  Truth be told, I have been obsessed with that time period since high school.  You could put this on your wall right next to the Yellow Submarine, and it would totally go together.  I bought three propaganda posters and about a dozen postcards.  Maybe you will be one of the lucky recipients, when I finally get around to writing them!

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We dined at this restaurant before leaving town for our next destination.  It’s called Propaganda Cafe, what else?


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