Mekong Delta, Saigon...
Joce: Getting Visas for Vietnam was a cinch and within 10 minutes we had our passports stamped and were on a bus to Saigon. What a busy place Saigon is! It is a good thing that Nathaniel and I have become experienced at crossing busy roads, because there are a million scooters and no stop lights or stop signs. Nathaniel says that it is a lot like "Frogger", (apparently that is some video game that was all the rage when he was a kid). You basically launch yourself into oncoming traffic and weave around the buses and scooters whizzing past you. If you wait for a pause in the traffic so that you can cross... you will be standing on the side of the road for a long time.
This is a common sight in the busy towns, scooters piled with rice, crates, pigs, ducks.. virtually everything that we would transport in a pickup truck they manage to do with a scooter.
It has been interesting travelling in a communist country. It is incredibly hard to find books and all written work is censored. Apparently there is "free speech" but if a magazine or newpaper prints something that the communist government does not like they will "temporarily" shut down the facility and then refuse to renew their printing lisence.
Comunisim seems to be working in Vietnam now, but it wasn't always so great.
Nate: The War Remnants Museum in Saigon has been by far the best war museum that we have seen. They had great well preserved machinery and weaponry outside, as well as detailed and sometimes graphic displays inside.
The museum went into a lot of detail explaining the after effects of war, especially from devices like landmines, and terrible chemicals such as “Agent Orange”(a chemical used in Vietnam by the Americans to make the trees lose their leaves. By doing this it made warfare in the dense jungle much easier for them.)
I love computer war games just as much as the next guy (and some times the ladies), but seeing this stuff in real life feels kinda surreal. To stand behind an anti aircraft gun and look through the sights, or amongst all the other tanks and canons, has a sobering effect that impresses on you how real war is. Playing games with AK-47’s and grenade launchers is one thing, seeing them on display and imagining lugging these things through the jungle with you is another.
What is just as crazy is that this thing called war isn’t just an idea, or a glimpse from the past, but a reality of today. That in another 20 or 30 years people will be able to go to museums in other countries just like this one and see the atrocities of war that are happening today as though they were the small happenings of bygone years. 40-50 years ago Vietnam was not a place for tourists much like Afghanistan, or Sudan are not places for tourists today. And much like Vietnam or Cambodia, it will be years before the full impact to these places is realized by the outside world. After seeing all these things for myself, I still have a hard time taking a position for or against war itself. Should they have left Vietnam alone? Or could we have done more to help stem the genocide of Cambodia. Those questions mirror similar questions that we have right now concerning places like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Sudan. I’m glad these choices are not mine to make.
Joce: After a couple days of sightseeing in Saigon we decided to take a two day trip to the Mekong Delta. It ended up being a one day trip after our bus broke down so I didn't get to see the floating market in Can Tho. In any case, we got to float down the Mekong river once again, as well explore some of the smaller rivers that lead to little villages built on islands. Everywhere you looked there were blue wooden boats with eyes painted on them. We were told that the Vietmanese fishermen did this to scare away crocodiles. In anycase there are kinda creepy and cool at the same time. They actually remind me a little of my favorite children's show- Theadore the tugboat.
On the islands we visited a factory where they make the most delicious coconut candy and I got another chance to hold a python. This snake was a lot nicer than the one I helped Nathaniel hold in Africa, so I didn't have to worry about it wrapping itself around my neck or trying to bite me.
In Vietnam there are hundreds of women walking around with bamboo yokes laden with fruit and everything else under the sun. They carry them effortlessly, but I found that it was quite a wobbly burden.
After a couple of days we headed to Mui Ne, a beach community where we heard there was a lot of windsurfing and kitesurfing. It took Nathaniel about 10 minutes of watching the action to decide that he wanted to join the fun.
Nate: So, once again I anteed up the cash for more pain and suffering, and I rented a wind surfer. Since attempting windsurfing in Costa Rica I have come to realize that if I am to continue in this sport there are a few necessary skills that I need to master. Namely “water starts” and “harnesses”. So I spent the better part of an hour trying to teach myself how to “water start” while Jocelyn amused herself by timing how long it took. I almost had it figured out, but then caught the wind wrong and was catapulted through the air and consequently broke the sail, maybe next time :0).
There are a lot of sand dunes and beautiful red conyons in Mui Ne. This is one of the streams that we hiked up one afternoon.
Southern Vietnam has the largest variety of beautiful orchid species we have ever encountered. In the market there were entire streets of them for sale. It is painful to pass up the opportunity to buy such exotic orchids at rock bottom prices, but I don't think they would have fared too well straped to our backpacks.