Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sad Bear in Saigon

There is a sad side to Saigon as well - the conflict between North and South from the late 60s to the early 70s. I am just a little bear so I don't understand all of this human fighting. As a little bear I am friends with other bears and even not-a-bears like mice and hamsters and pigs. War and fighting don't make sense to me. But Mama said I should see some of what went on... so... I went.

We went to the Cu Chi Tunnels one day - they are about 50 km from Saigon. During the conflict, communist guerrilla peasants lived and fought in this area. They dug out a 250 km long set of tunnels in the Cu Chi area. The tunnels were 3 m deep, 8 m and 10 m deep. We got to go in them for a small section (120 m) and while I thought they were quite tall... Mama said they were not!

There were also examples of various booby-traps that the guerrillas set out for unsuspecting soldiers and their sniffer-dogs. It is sad that so many people and even animals died.

The tunnels had tiny little hatches where the guerrillas could pop out and surprise enemy patrols. This guy isn't stuck... but he did have some trouble getting out again!

This was our tour guide - he was EXCELLENT!! He was a South Vietnamese person who was attached to the US Navy and had spent time in California. He told us a different perspective on the war than the "official" communist line.

We also went to the War Remnants Musuem. There were a bunch of US planes and tanks in the front courtyard.

The planes were beary large and beary interesting.

I don't think I would make a great pilot... these planes are way too big for little bears!

The inside of the museum was beary sad... so many people who were killed or wounded. And people are still being wounded and killed by buried landmines, sort of like in Europe, where farmers still plough up bombs from World War I. I left the museum beary confused as to why the conflict actually started and what the point of it had been... and who actually won. Our tour guide from the tunnels probably put it best. "In War, there is no Winner".

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Saigon or Paris?

Soooo... did you know that Vietnam was under French Colonial rule back in the olden days? Yup... and the French left their distinctive stamp behind...

Here I am in front of the Opera House. Mama has seen the Opera House in Paris (magnifique!!) and this one isn't quite the same but still pretty impressive.

It wasn't open to the public (or little bears) and apparently there was no way we were paying $50 to go and see the current show that was playing. It's actually not an opera house anymore but more of a theatre where they stage live shows.

Oh well... it did turn out that we were there for the 123rd birthday of Ho Chi Minh! He's not actually still alive though... cause that would be beary old if he were!

 Next stop... Notre Dame Cathedral!! See what I mean about being confused... are we in Saigon or Paris?? Mind you, this doesn't look much like Notre Dame in Paris... or so I've been told.  But it is beautiful!

I wanted to go in... but it was Saturday and there were weddings taking place...

Heh-heh... a gate that stops humans does not stop a little bear though! I was ready to scamper off and have a look-see but Mama hauled me back my belt... drat!

Oh well... Right across from Notre Dame is the Post Office... and what a building!!! This one we could actually go into...

To buy stamps of course... for post cards... Let me see... Beanie, Hammie, Sullivan, Buttons, Jerry & Ben... how many stamps do I need... And that costs 11,500 D for one postcard stamp to Europe!!!! Ayiehhhh!!!!! What the heck??? Mama hasn't yet explained the currency conversion to me but she says that it is not as outrageous as it looks... good to know!

There we go... I have stamps!

The post office also had these old style phone booths with clocks showing the time in various international cities. Some of the booths didn't have phones anymore but ATM machines...

This one did have a phone but... it's a 12 hour time difference (more or less) to back home - which means 9 am is 9 pm the previous day back home... Which means we live in the future! Or something. Anyhow... it's tough to phone home... and expensive too...

Pretty impressive building...

And then... it was off to the Reunification Palace. This was built in the 1960s and has a classic 1960s feel (or so I am told). It was where the South Vietnam president lived and worked during the 60s and early 70s.

It's a beary beautiful building...

Very light and airy inside with lots of outside light.

I took an official tour and got to see a lot of the backrooms. The palace hasn't been used since April 30, 1975 when the North Vietnamese took over - so everything has been left as it was back then... it's like a time-warp. Does anyone recognize these???

This was the phone in the President's Office. I wonder if it served the same purpose as the red phone in the White House in DC????

Very pretty view...

This is the room where the president would greet international leaders. You can't quite see it but his chair, behind the desk, sits on a platform so that he always sat higher than the other guys.

This place even has a heli-pad!! Back in early April 1975, a South Vietnamese fighter pilot who was actually a secret communist, peeled off from his squadron and dropped two bombs on the helipad. They made quite a big mess but didn't apparently hurt anybody. Although everyone scampered down secret staircases to the underground bomb shelter.

Where they still have old radio equipment...

And the president's old Mercedes... Am I not a cute bumper ornament?

I wandered around some more and just so you don't get the wrong impression... Saigon does have a lot of modern buildings too!

And interesting garbage cans... This one is a penguin. In Can Tho they were little bear garbage cans. In Ha Tien they were elephants!

We also stopped at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum. The inside was "meh" according to Mama, which I think means mediocre... uninteresting... no great shakes. There was a scary underground bunker which had Mama's partner running for the stairs... I wanted a picture down there but... no luck! Anyhow... Outside was more interesting... I am sitting in a cyclo.... it is sort of like a rickshaw but not quite.

This is a different angle on it... It is basically a backwards tricycle with a seat over the front two tires where passengers sit. The driver sits on a very tall bicycle seat (where I am sitting below). There are still some running around Saigon but they are going to be phased out.

Oh hey!! A rickshaw! They don't have these anymore...

Hmmm... Mama put me here and told me to wait... Hmmm... it's a long way down... Hmmm... I don't like this!

Oh goodness!! I am not a circus bear!!! I do not fly out of cannons!!

But I would like to take a ride in this car....

It's definitely old and in nice shape! But Mama says it was just for display... phooie!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Serene Saigon

Whew!!! I made it out of the backpack finally! Despite all the traffic, Saigon does have some beautiful parks. There were also many ponds with lotus flowers.

Lotus flowers look a bit like lilypads but they aren't the same.

Lotus flowers have huge buds...

That turn into magnificent flowers!! And the seed pods are edible too. I haven't tried any... Mama says I am a big scaredy-bear!

One are of the park was perplexing to me because.. aren't we in the tropics?? Why are there desert plants here???

I mean, these cacti are beautiful with their flowers but... they are a dry climate plant... and Saigon is definitely a tropical wet climate. Confused little bear!

There were even some palm trees that were more my height...

That is not a plant that you want to meet in the dark when you can't see where you are going!

 You never know what you might find in a park... look it's a ruin! Like the ones in Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

It's only a replica but it is a perfect little-bear size.

This statue looks kind of Indian to me... Mama says that it is probably part of the Cham culture which settled in this area from India way back in the olden days. That makes sense.

Hey - look at that!!! It's Ogopogo... or the Loch Ness monster! A big sea serpent type of thing...

With a big mouth... can you see me in there???

There I am!

There is so much cool stuff in these parks! These guys were guarding the entrance to a small pagoda.

Pretty cool...

Oh hey -a  tiger! Hello kitty!!! Nice kitty??? Hmmmm....

And a water buffalo... I have seen tonnes of these since I got here... the first few were interesting - "Ooooohhhh... water buffalo!!!" And now it's just - "Eh, 'nother water buff". Sort of like if you had never see cows and then came to North America. After a while you'd get tired of cows!

Oh well... maybe not... I take that back... this is a water buffalo too but it is different! I like it - sort of a modern looking one. But the guy on his back looks like he has his hands up to his heads reading a book... maybe a student studying for an exam?? Probably not a good place to do it!

And then we have kitty statues... no wait... those are real kitties!! They were beary skittish though and took off as soon as I blinked at them. Guess they'd never seen a little bear before!

I have to say... I saw this thing from a distance and had no idea what it could be... The blue colour was just too unreal. It couldn't be real!

Oh but it was real. It was a lizard climbing a tree trunk - and those colours are amazing. It turns out it was Mr. Lizard chasing Miss Lizard around the tree trying to convince her that he was the most handsome lizard in the park.

I don't know though... there could be a lot of other lizards out there!

Lots of flowers in the park too - these are hibiscus and they grow everywhere. They are like rose bushes back home. And they come in every shade of colour.

Pink and yellow and salmon and red and fuschia... beautiful!