After two days without luggage in Hong Kong, I now got my suitcase back and I'm already heading to my next destination: Vietnam. The two and a half hours flight brought me to Ho Chi Minh City in the far south of the country and I changed the time zone from GMT +8 to GMT +7.
My hotel (Aquari) is located in Quân 1 (District 1) and the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel took about 25 minutes. En route I already made out one obvious big difference between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC): While you almost never see bicyicles or motorbikes in Hong Kong, the streets here are crowded with motorbikes. There seem to be millions of them, most of them carrying 1 or 2 people, but there are also motorbikes carrying 5 people or mountains of goods or rubbish.
While the temperature in HCMC is around 25°C in December, I actually never really saw the sun. The city seemed to be immersed into a thick layer of smog, fog, smoke, clouds or maybe dust, whatever it exactly was. There's a strong smell of motorbike exhausts in the air and the visibility never exceeded 500 meters thanks to that pollution. That's the main reason, why many people wear face-masks here.
It's difficult to compare Hong Kong to HCMC. There are many differences, not only with respect to the traffic. There are less skyscrapers, obviously, but then you'll also find those typical french buildings, like the old post office or the Notre Dame church, that remind us of the time, Vietnam was called "Indochine" and was governed by the French. And then, in my eyes, there's much more of a living on the streets here in HCMC: You'll find people cooking, sitting, eating or even sleeping on the sidewalks. And you won't be able to overlook the millions of power cables everywhere...
The second day's afternoon I went to the War Remnants Museum. I thought this might give me a short but interesting insight into the younger history of Vietnam. The museum is close to the Reunification Palace and it's built in a kind of a small park. The exhibition itself begins already outside, from a certain distance you can clearly make out the silouettes of the helicopters, bombers and tanks, we all know from Vietnam war movies, behind the park's fences.
What actually changes your mind immediately, as soon as you are inside that park, is the closer look and the texts on the plates in front of all the objects. The cool Vietnam movies fade away quickly and all of a sudden you're standing in middle of original war material, that has already been used to kill hundreds, thousands of people. And you can stand there and touch it.
There are three floors in the museum. I now wanted to see and read everything, but then the time went by so fast, that I had only seen the ground floor so far, when they closed the museum at 5pm. My decision was clear: I would come again the next day and visit the rest of the exhibition, even if I had already struggled and fought tears several times this afternoon. Back home at the hotel I googled the museum and read a lot of usercomments, in which people write, that the exhibition might be "quite disturbing, especially for American tourists". They are right, but you don't need to be American to feel this disturbance.
I don't know, if I was allowed to take photos, at least nobody stopped me in doing so. The images below depict a fraction of what can be seen in there, but they might give you an idea of what I saw and maybe even what I felt. Every additional word would be one too much.
The Marie Curie high school is just across the street of the War Remnants Museum and when I passed by on my way back from lunch to my third visit to the museum, I asked a security guard at the entrance of the school, if I was allowed to take a look inside. I was just asking some students, at what time their lessons would start in the afternoon, when a man went to me and asked, if he could be of any help. He was a teacher in mathematics and he explained to me, that the students had their "years end examinations" this very afternoon. When I told him, that I was a teacher too, he absolutely wanted to take a picture of me in front of the teachers entrance and he invited me to come again the next day and attend one of his lessons... :)
But unfortunately there was no next day in HCMC for me, the next day I left the city and flew to Da Nang. From there I went to Hoi An by taxi (35 minutes) and ended up at the Hoi An Trails Resort for the next two days.
Hoi An is a small town with some 100'000 inhabitants, it's a UNESCO world heritage site and has a beautiful old town. I spent two very relaxing days there and met Mrs Anh, the owner of the little shop on the other side of the road at my hotel, who offered to wash all the clothes in my suitcase for 1 US$, what she actually did. Perfect!