Deciding to forego yet another 18+ hour train ride along the rickety, 1,726KM Reunification Express line, we opted for a quick 1-hour, $45 flight from Danang to our final Vietnamese destination: Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, and still referred to as such by those of the "get off my lawn" generation, the majority of our time in this expansive city of over 8 million residents was an eye-opening experience into that of a war through which we never lived.
Encompassing hundreds of museums, artifacts and other historical accounts of the Vietnam War, our time in HCMC was the perfect opportunity to do a bit of research into what was only previously known to our generation as "the scene where Bubba dies." After weeding through the endless array of biased/controversial articles that is only expected when reviewing such an unpopular time in world history, it took a bit of digging until we were finally able to come up with a fairly, unbiased summarization (in blatant, please take no offense if you believe differently, fashion):
With our cliffnotes-esque knowledge in hand, we set off to the first of many war-based sites in Ho Chi Minh City - The War Museum (a fairly appropriate name based on the topics covered inside). Surrounded by US tanks, planes and other "repossessed" weapons left behind after the war, it only takes a few minutes within the museums confines to fully realize how one-sided the viewpoint truly is. With thousands of photos, 99% of them portraying the US in a fairly "unflattering" light, it becomes rather obvious why the war was so unpopular across the world. From images of American soldiers standing smiling over decapitated women, to deformed Vietnamese children suffering from the lifelong effects of Agent Orange, this is probably one museum where you should leave your American-flag-themed tanktop back at home.
It was only until our next visited site, to the Cu Chi Tunnels a few hours outside of HCMC, did we truly comprehend the entire story at hand. Led by one of the more surprising tour guides in this Communist-controlled nation - A Vietnamese-born gentleman by the name of Mr Binh/Bean, who not only fought FOR the US in the war, but also is entirely unafraid to share his potentially-treasonous viewpoints on various anti-Vietnamese topics (e.g. referring to the War Museum as "bullshit place, but go if you like being lied to"), his eye-opening stories into the war were quite incredible. With an understandable hatred for a war that not only took his life, but also his family and everything that he once knew, Mr Binh was able to provide a very interesting mix of insight in regard to the war:
While by no means a way of excusing the atrocities that occurred during this time, as many inexcusable actions did occur on part of the US, there is a rational behind the atrociousness. With the world being fed images of murdered women, children and others deemed "off limits" in any worldly conflict, what was not seen were those same "off limit" individuals, having actively volunteered to involve themselves in such a brutal campaign, firing rifles in the direction of those sent overseas to protect them. Add to that relentless heat and humidity, disease-spreading mosquitoes, and almost a complete lack of water due to the poisoning of any available source, and it is hard not to imagine how the majority of troops not only lost their minds, but eventually dehumanized the enemy against which they were never properly trained.
Not As Serious Insight:
Overall, as the debate over the merits of the Vietnam War will last forever, as Mr Binh's and non-Mr-Binh's provide one-sided opinions for years to come, it does not seem fair that someone such as myself, completely uninvolved at the time, could provide a respectable point of view. However, after being surrounded by both good, and bad, of what Vietnam has to offer, it is difficult to avoid sharing a few thoughts on a subject that most prefer to generally avoid, informed or not. No matter who you ask, there is little doubt that the war was a blatant attempt to stop the spread of a government system which we believed to threaten humanities way of life at the time. Whether valid or not, what we instead encountered during this questionably-purposed campaign was an enemy for which we were entirely unprepared, both tactically and more importantly, mentally.
With no prior precedent, especially in regard to the handling of "anyone that can hold a gun will probably fire a gun," improvisation and catastrophe occurred hand in hand. And while one would think a lesson should have been learned by fighting an "unwinnable war against an unpredictable enemy," the story itself seems to consistently repeat itself again and again. And unfortunately, there only seems to be one way to avoid such disastrous conflicts from occurring in the near future: Don't vote for Trump. I mean, seriously? WTF happened while we were away?
Onto the more light-hearted pics: