After a wonderful few weeks already in Viet Nam we finished off with two very different locations, Ho Chi Minh city (HCM) and Pho Quoc island.
HCM was everything we expected, crazy traffic and high rise buildings and lots of hustle and bussel. The food was again lovely and going to a rooftop bar to enjoy cocktails and the view is a must! Pho Quoc was the complete opposite, a wonderfully quiet Island that is still in the early stages of commercialisation. Lots of sunbathing, swimming and Xander qualified as a PADI open water junior diver. Forever memories made.
To balance out all our relaxing so far, and that to come on the Island, we decided to take the children to the War Remnants Museum and out to the Cu Chi tunnels, with the aim of educating them about the more modern history of Viet Nam. Both were well worth a visit, but I would be very cautious about what in each place you allow the children to see. The museum contained many photographs of very disturbing images and there are recreations of the barbaric traps at the tunnels.
Although I wanted the children to learn about the horrors of war, particularly this one when “collateral damage” seemed to first become an acceptable part of strategy, I didn’t need them to see it in full technicolor at their young ages. I must admit I, as a 40 year-old women, found both the photos and traps very disturbing.
Our guide for the Cu Chi tunnels was a fascinating man, a vet of the war who supported the Americans as a communications engineer. He was keen to give us insights into the real experience, rather than the adapted ‘Tourist” version. Slightly worrying that he stopped talking whenever one of the state guides walked past. He underwent two years of reeducation camps and is still blacklisted from most jobs, hence freelancing as a guide.
My lasting impression, and personal view, was just the sheer horror of a war that reduced normal people to nothing. Made even more sad, given the unimaginable casualty numbers (again sanitised language – dead people), by the fact the war wasn’t primarily about Viet Nam or its people – just a old fashioned pissing contest between larger nations.
PADI – back to happy thoughts
Well, back in the UK Xander was desperate to learn to dive, but you can only start when you are 10. He turned 10 three and half weeks before we set off. Never one lacking in determination he attended a weekly course in Harrogate with OverlandUnderwater and crammed in all the book learning as well. Super proud Mummy when he got 86% in the test. However disappoint was felt when the weather came in whilst we were in South Africa preventing the qualifiying dives.
I was a bit reluctant at first for him to learn in Viet Nam due to unfounded prejudice on the potential professionalism and safety. Xander did a two day course with RainbowDivers, fitting in five dives, passing the practical tests, and making a new best friend. He is now a fully qualified PADI Open Water Junior Diver. Awesome, or as they would say in New Zealand SWEET (where I am writing this avoid the torrential rain). Future posts will have him diving in Byron Bay, the Great Barrier Reef and Poor Knights Islands.
Bye Viet Nam
Upon leaving Viet Nam we were all very sad, a truly lovely country – great people, great scenery, great food – just great! However on our next journey we began to debate whether the country is equally great for the people living there. It is clear that economically the country has opened up, but are the people free, do they care? Whilst travelling in Viet Nam I read Aldous Huxley A Brave New World, and although on a day to day basis people seem to have all they need, is freedom more important than that? Are we putting our views onto them, would they see our slave to commercialism as equally constraining. I’m afraid I have come to no conclusions, just lots of thoughts.
The Pictures – more to follow