I'm 2 weeks into my Vietnam adventure and have made through about half the country! Which is good because my visa only last 30 days...
I left Ben Tre for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where I spent one quick day doing what there is to do i.e. markets and museums. The market was like any other, but the museum... oh the museum.
The War Remnants Museum was easily the most horrible thing I've seen on my trip. The Khmer Rouge killing sites were terribly depressing, of course, but there was that easy distance between that and me. Different time, different culture.
In the War Remnants Museum someone asked me where I was from. I said Canada.
The whole museum is dedicated to documenting everything horrible America ever did to Vietnam. The pictures are brutal, the stories far worse. Exhibit after exhibit left me feeling worse and worse. And the cherry on top was the Agent Orange section where they some affected fetuses on display coupled with hundreds of pictures of sufferers.
The main problem with the museum is how they paint their innocence in the whole thing, which is barely true. No exhibit documented the start of the war or why America felt the need to act or any of the atrocities the Viet Cong were guilty of. But that aside, it didn't feel to me like that kind of brutality could ever be justified. No matter the flaws, no American with a heart could ever walk through that museum and not leave it feeling a little disappointed and angry at their country.
My final little note on the museum is on the graciousness of the Vietnamese. It would seem to me that any Vietnamese visiting that museum would walk away fuming, just like I did. But, that is rarely the case. In fact, I have yet to have a negative encounter with any Vietnamese based on my nationality. Staying with Van's family, I had an opportunity to ask what the general feeling was towards Americans. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "what's done is done." I had another opportunity to ask the same question to a veteran, a Vietnamese man who fought in the American army. He shook his head and said that people are horrible, but mostly, people are good.
To conclude my borderline political rant, after what that war did to Vietnam, regardless of blame, the strong-willedness and graciousness of the Vietnamese people have transformed this country into what I am lucky enough to be seeing today.
Aaaaaand on that note: Da Lat!
After being thoroughly depressed in Ho Chi Minh City, I left one afternoon to Da Lat, the Central Highlands, the agriculture hub of Vietnam.
Not to mention it was just an adorable town all around. Oh, and god bless this cool-climated oasis. I got off the bus and I got goosebumps! After sweating for 2 straight weeks, it was a welcome welcome chill. But anyway, Da Lat's economy is booming at the moment because of COFFEE. Everybody and their dogs are growing coffee and people are making bank from it. Some of the houses here are just so beautiful and big - which according to Huang, friend and guide, said were for the rich people. I asked how much the houses cost and he shook his head and said, "very very expensive. Maybe 60 or 80 thousand USD." What the what?
On my travels one of my favorite things to do in each place is imagine myself living there. I may have found my place of retirement...
So my time was spent walkin around and such. I visited a very beautiful flower garden among other things:
I ended up staying with another womderfully kind Vietnamese family, who cooked me an amazing meal (this is why I choose to stay with families... home-cooked meals!)
|Fish filets! My delight chef is incredibly pregnant at this point. When I asked how many months she was she said , "Nine," I said shoot she'd have the baby real soon! She goes, "Yes. Maybe tonight." That's one hard-workin prego lady!|
Then I dipped off to the countryside for a few days!
|COFFEE! After Huang pointed out what coffee looked like, Da Lat appeared to me the way Magic Eye images suddenly appear in focus - every mountain was covered in beautiful coffee plants.|
|Oh God, Weasel Coffee. This lucky weasel spends his life eating coffee beans and pooping them out. The beans ferment in his stomach creating a special taste that is apparently really really delicious and expensive.|
|Behind the waterfall. What a powerful force.|
|So many waterfalls!|
|Traditional Vietnamese Long House|
Oh, and it's been raining allllll day. I keep waiting for the day it starts raining and doesn't stop for 4 months.