Ho Chi Minh and the war remnants museum – Day 1

Persistent knocking on the door wakes me up. I sit up completely disoriented. Why is my bedroom completely dark when it’s normally filled with early morning light? Why would somebody be knocking on my bedroom door at home? How did they get into the house?
Then I remember that I am in a hotel room. I stumble out of bed and open the door. A short Vietnamese man mumbles something and points to his towel laden cart. I assume that he wants to come in to change the towels. I shake my head, say no thanks and stumble back to bed.
It’s already 8am, so why do I feel like I have just gotten into bed? I fall asleep swiftly. The alarm goes off a short while later. This time we force ourselves to get up and get going. It’s 10am.
Today is orientation day. Everything feels uncomfortable. I pack and repack my day pack several times. Should I put the cameras in the top section or the bottom? Maybe the water bottle will be better on the right and not the left.
Finally we leave the room around 11am. It’s too late for the breakfast included in the hotel fee so we walk down the road into the first coffee shop we find to fill up and restock on much-needed strong coffee and breakfast.
We decide to walk the streets to get a feel for the place. The War Remnants Museum is a short walk from our hotel and its on our list of places to see today.
The walk is enjoyable. The road runs parallel to a large park. The museum is closed when we arrive. It’s lunchtime and will reopen in 20 mins so we stroll around taking photos and getting our bearings.
I was afraid that the love affair that started last night would be soured in the daylight sunshine, but thankfully I only fall harder. I really, really like this place. It’s gentle, it’s kind, it’s neat and tidy, vibey, it’s happening, it’s chaos and calm, edgy and serene all at once.
The museum takes up a couple of hours. The atrocities of war documented in hundreds of photographs on display reduces me to tears. The dispassionate faces of the visitors looking at the photos as if they were looking at some artwork hits me hard and I feel sick. How can we do things like this to each other? How can we look at it and feel so little?
Back on the streets we walk through a large city park. There are people of all ages enjoying this city green lung. Lovers cuddling on benches, old men doing tai chi, guys playing tennis and a form of soccer with what looks like a badminton shuttlecock. We watch, take photos, share in their laughter and joy.

After a short reprieve from the heat and humidity in the air-conditioned coolness of our bedroom, we are walking the streets again by 6pm. The city seems to come alive at night when it’s cooler. Our aim is to find a local restaurant in which to indulge in some of the culinary delights on offer. We are not disappointed, and with full bellies we wonder through the market and end up at our “local” coffee shop to take in the street scene and write about our day.

Ho Chi Minh City at night

The hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City at night

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2 thoughts on “Ho Chi Minh and the war remnants museum – Day 1

  1. Tom

    Hi Dori,

    That answers one of the questions in my email. You have indeed been to the war remnants museum (have been reading your blog pretty criss-crossed). We were also really shaken up about the museum and the photo’s. Have you seen the “Tiger Cages” in the outer grounds? Really terrible stuff. I especially appreciated the part of the museum devoted to the war photographers and I’m sure that you and your husband, like me, were really taken by the stories.

    Anyway, I’ve decided to read your blog in the proper order now ;-).

    Groeten uit Eindhoven,

    Tom

    Reply

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