Me and Chairman Mao
  Bangkok, oriental setting.
Those are, for the record, the first three words to the Eighties hit "One Night in Bangkok," for those of you who are curious. Of course, I won't be there for a night, only a few hours, but what can you do? I have to name this post something. Anyway, that also--obviously--means that we are leaving Saigon. It's been fun. As I said before, it's not the BAMC (Big Asian Mega-City) I expected, but it has it's charms--as well as really good Vietnamese and French food, so how bad can it be? Oh, and the coffee isn't bad, either. Sure, at some point I do stop and think about how bad drinking what basically amounts to half a cup of sweetened, condensed milk is for me, but what can you do? It's vacation.

But back to Saigon. The "reunification palace"--the place where the South Vietnamese governemnt was located--was interesting, and actually a very very cool '60s building. (Can '60s buildings be cool? I think so--I think it's just the seventies that is a complete wasteland. Nice job, you people.) There was, of course, some random propaganda, which is always interesting, as well as the tanks--or possibly replicas of the tanks--that did the famous gate-ramming. Oh, and the actualy flag they hoisted up over the palace when the NVA overran the place. (North Vietnamese Army, natch.) The day after that we took a trip out to the Mekong, which was okay. I'm glad I saw the river, though, and I was surprised by how big it was--it's like 1.8 miles across where we saw it. Yes, big. Otherwise, the rest of our journey was only okay, although we did end up with some coconut candy and a half-liter of "banana seed wine"--it tastes like whiskey--which only cost about one dollar for the entire bottle. I'm sure it's high-quality, though. I'll let you know at any rate ... if I remember. Currently, I have doubts.

We also stopped and had tea in the ruins of an old French fruit plantation, which is what I will tell people years from now because it sounds so romantic, although the reality was somewhat ... different. First, it had been raining, so the trails had all turned into mud. Second, it wasn't so much ruins as remenants, I guess. A few buildings that had been taken over by a Vietnamese family, and there was tarps and boxes and junk all over the place, as well as some free-roaming hens and roosters that continually had me thinking things along the lines of "This is exactly the kind of place where people get bird flu." So far, I still feel fine though, so probably it's okay. Plus, the tea--jasmine tea mixed with honey water and kumquat juice--was amazingly good, so it worked out.

Yesterday was the best, though. We went to the Cu Chi tunnels, which are about 20 KM from Saigon and was the place where the VC hung out (in tunnels) to fight the Americans. First of all, Cu Chi is pronunced "kootchie," which was amusing--I'm not going to repeat them, but some jokes about dongs (Vietnamese currenty) and "kootchie" were made. Imagine that. Besides that, however, it was also interesting, but also sort of disturbing. It was the first place where the propoganda actually bothered me--there was a film glorifying the VC and it kept talking about the biggest heroes who killed so many Americans, and it explained how the VC would kill the US "tunnel rats" who tried to go into the tunnels to flush them out. (The ground is very hard and the tunnels are very deep, so I don't think bombing worked that well, and the tunnels are insanely small--I went in one for about 40 feet, and even thought it had been expanded, I still basically had to crawl. Not fun.) Besides that, however, it was interesting to see how everything was arranged--hospitals, bomb-making places, kitchens that let the smoke out far away from where the oven actually was, etc. Oh, and there was a big display of all the booby-traps they used to use, which were very painful looking: lots of trapdoors and bamboo, as you can imagine.

They also had one more cool thing: a firing range. Yes, for the right price, you could go down to a target range and shoot an AK-47, an M-16, even an M-60. Naturally, I did it. I chose the M-16 for the record, just because I figured I should. (I though about the M-60, but you paid by the bullet, and I figured unless I could by a big huge chain of them and go all Rambo, it wouldn't be as fun. Plus, I would look silly screaming "Adrian!" as I shot it, which I know is the wrong movie but it's all Sly so I think it works, or at least it works for me.) Anyway, I bought 5 bullets, and I'm sad to say I didn't hit the target once--the M-16 is very very loud though--which is disappointing because I figured after so many years of video games I would just naturally have good aim. (Maybe I would have done better with the Battle Rifle?) Apparently not. I'm not sure what the problem was, although I'm guessing either the sights were off or it was too windy, because naturally the problem couldn't have been my aim. My other theory is that I actually hit the target every time, but the Vietnamese guy helping me said I didn't--I couldn't actually see where the bullets went, which was odd--because he was jealous of my perfect aim. Probably it's one of those, or maybe a combo of all three--I'm not sure which. Anyway, I naturally have lots of pictures, which you'll see at some point. (Memory card 1 is now full, for the record: 659 pictures.)

Oh, and we also went to the noon service at the Caodaist temple, which was very weird, although I guess I will tell you more about that later. Needless to say, anywhere you have people in robes bowing down to a dragon-covered alter with pictures of the Buddha and Jesus holding his bleeding heart, something strange is happening. And did I mention the picture of Victor Hugo getting instructions from heaven? No? I will, but later.

Why later? Because as I said at the beginning of this, we're off to Bangkok, where we are meeting our friends and then flying off to Ko Samui to sit around on a beach for a week. And while that may be fun, it's probably not that interesting to read about--really, it's much better if you are actualy ON the beach, I've found. Just an observation. I do, however, plan to continue to work on TPT--The Perfect Tan--so I'll let you know how that goes. Probably, it will end up being ABS--A Bad Sunburn--but we'll see ...
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