Winter Term 2012: Singapore/Vietnam – January 12, 2013

Ho Chi Minh City

The first 48 hours of our 10-day trip to Ho Chi Minh City, still affectionately referred to as Saigon by the locals, and Singapore have been eventful to say the least. En route to Southeast Asia we crossed the North Pole, the date line, and the equator. We arrived at the Duxton Hotel in Saigon this morning at 3:30 a.m. after spending nearly a day and a half in the air or running through airports.

After getting settled, we were finally able to relax a little after 5. That didn’t last long because we hit the ground running this morning at 9:30 with a walk to a park in the city for an early morning tai chi class. Needless to say, we thoroughly embarrassed ourselves by the general lack of coordination and flexibility of the group. Some of the pictures are priceless. It was a great way to start the trip.

After an authentic pho lunch, we boarded the bus with our guide, Queenie, to take a tour of downtown Saigon. We started at the Independence Palace that served as the location for the Vietnamese government during the war. (Side note: Vietnam is hot and humid. We’re in the Southern hemisphere, so it is summertime.) The visit to the palace was interesting. Queenie is an excellent guide and clearly demonstrates a lot of knowledge and pride for her country, but she also loves Americans – which is critical because our next stop was at the War Remnants Museum, a museum dedicated to depicting the atrocities committed by America during the Vietnam War.

This was an eye opening experience, from War Crimes to the graphic images of those that were either killed or are still suffering from the devastating effects of Agent Orange. Multiple generations later, there are still children born today that are affected with either physical or mental disabilities stemming from the chemical warfare. Overall, it was an extremely valuable experience, albeit depressing.

Tonight we are dividing into our discussion groups and going out to dinner at various restaurants. It will be fun to see the vibrant city at night… but it will also be nice to get some sleep.

The last thing I’m going to comment on are the hordes of mopeds roaming the streets, which are EVERYWHERE. A relatively small city in area, Saigon is home to more than 7 million people. At least 6 million must own a moped. There seem to be very few traffic laws governing the roving gangs of mopeds, but in the madness exists a strange sense of structure and order. You just need to be extra careful crossing the street.

Written by: Alex Worth

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