Remnants - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

November 22, 2023

Remnants

Remnants 

OK, if any of you read our last year's journal, To Begin Again, you will know how much I love a good buffet breakfast.  Well, I have to tell you that this morning's was one of the best ever!  There were all sorts of little dumpling-like wrapped meats that I placed in a bowl, loaded on fresh basil leaves and chili paste and then drizzled some sort of sauce over all of it and I was transported to another plane of gastronomy.   The sauce, which I have no idea what it was made of, I call pure Vietnam flavor.  The Vietnamese figured out long ago (possibly teaching the French and not the other way around) how to add elegance and depth to their flavors while keeping their dishes light and fresh.  That's the only way I know how to explain what I was tasting this morning.  I sampled just about everything just so I could detect the subtleties.  Amazing!  The broth of the beef pho was again some of the best I've ever tasted.  And the coffee, too, was quite possibly the best coffee I've ever had in my life!  I don't think I'm exaggerating. I rarely do :).  

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Steve Miller/GrampiesBreakfast IS the most important meal of the day.
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltEspecially important on tour!
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3 months ago
Ron SuchanekAnd no crowds to get in your way!
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Ron SuchanekFunny you should say that. Last night an entire bus load of high schoolers stayed here and we had to wait for them to finish before venturing up to the breakfast room. Imagine the sound of about 150 teenagers in here! It was epic.
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2 months ago

I didn't want to leave the buffet at all and just sit there sampling and resampling for four hours but eventually Andrea stopped me from filling my hollow leg completely because we had planned to go to The War Remnants Museum. It was true, we needed to go early before the heat set in.  Plus, it was I who suggested we go see that museum.

Our hotel is situated a block from a beautiful and large park full of really big, tall trees.  In fact many many streets of Saigon are lined with the same tall trees which separates this city from all the other big cities I've ever seen in Asia.  The French started planting the trees in 1863 in order to add more greenery and possibly cool the city a bit.  Most are golden oak - hopea odorata - and dipterocarp alatus.   There are some impressively huge trees and so great to have them inside a major metropolis anywhere in the world but so lucky for the Vietnamese to have their lovely big-city-of-the -south filled with them.  I had heard about the big trees but I wasn't expecting so many everywhere.  

From our hotel we walked a block or two and saw hundreds of people at tiny low tables drinking coffee together.  It was still early (pre-heat of the day) and the residents were taking advantage of the relative coolness.  The air was lovely but seeing all the people interacting was even more lovely.  The cafe culture is apparently huge here and refreshing to see.  

This is the block our hotel is on.
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We walked through the park and again observed lots and lots of people exercising, playing badminton, doing tai chi, strolling arm-in-arm and sitting on benches talking.  We saw a photography class where all the students were taking turns photographing a lotus flower.  A group of older women with colorful fans were dancing together to what seemed like patriotic music.  There was much opening - TWAP! - of the fans.  For being a Wednesday morning I was surprised how many people were not at work, again maybe a component of the cafe lifestyle; work can come later.  It seemed to us to be quite a healthy way of living.  Everyone we observed seemed happy.  I love Saigon!

This is a huge park near our hotel. Lots of really big trees.
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It's so rare to see dipterocarp alatus trees right next to tall buildings.
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Scott AndersonMagnificent. I don’t remember ever seeing this tree.
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3 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonThey are the most highly prized hardwood lumber trees in SE Asia. They grow incredibly straight for a hundred feet or more and get enormous. The biggest one we have ever seen is in Kyaing Tung, Myanmar. It was planted by a king a few hundred years ago. Locals call it "The Big Tree." It had an offspring nearby and we call that tree, "The Little Big Tree."
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3 months ago
There are many boulevards like this in Saigon. I wonder how long the trees will be able to handle car exhaust before they succumb.
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Scott AndersonI couldn’t find anything about pollution sensitivity, but it looks like deforestation is a significant concern.
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltThey might actually like car exhaust with all the CO2...
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3 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Bill ShaneyfeltWow, that would be great. And, they get so much rain here maybe it won't be a problem. I get worried because the traffic here is insane and pollution levels must be climbing each year.
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3 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonYes, sadly they are cutting down hundreds of these trees to make way for a subway and bridge approaches. It's called "progress" and the trees are in the way!
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3 months ago
Brent HirakThis pic makes me so sad
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2 months ago

After a few more blocks of craning our necks, gawking upwards at tall trees, peering down little alleyways, taking note of tiny restaurants and being distracted by something every few feet, curbs and broken sidewalks gave us a hard time as we tried to simultaneously pay attention to on-coming motorbikes. But we made it to The War Remnants Museum intact. 

The War Remnants Museum shows the horrifying truth about what is called the Vietnam War in the U.S. and is called the American War here.  Since the U.S. had absolutely no business being involved in war in Vietnam I would say the American War is the more appropriate name.  There are lots of displays of photos on the ground floor of protests to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam - protests all over the world in the late 60's and early 70's including many in the U.S.  Most of the first floor was devoted to peace efforts then and now.  

On the second floor it gets downright grim.  The photos are of mutilated bodies and testimony by the few U.S. service members brave enough to admit the atrocities they and others had committed in Vietnam.  There are display cases of all the various land mines, bombs, bomblets, bullets and guns.  I had no idea how many versions of each there had been.  U.S. weapons manufacturers were experimenting with new designs since they could find out quickly the actual results on humans.  It was more and more depressing as we went and we declined to climb to the third floor.  We had had enough.  It was all too awful.  

Isn't this just the most evil thing humans can do to other humans!!?
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Scott AndersonI remember being trained on a device like this in infantry training back in 1970. And yes, of course - horrifying.
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3 months ago
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Part of the gift shop at The War Remnants Museum
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Janice BranhamArtful photo with her skirt flaring. Do the wares in the gift shop have anything to do with the subject of the museum?
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanYes, she fortuitously turned just as I took the photo.

You know, I failed at being a good reporter on this one. It was really unattractive jewelry so I didn't take much note. However, I do think some of it did have the message of no war ever again. We were too busy making cynical remarks about what big wig got to have a jewelry store right inside the War Remnants Museum. He no doubt is one of the higher ups and possibly persuaded his comrades with, "I'll give 10% of the proceeds to the museum." It was the only store there.
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2 months ago

But in one large room, that we almost overlooked, there was a marvelous display of kids' paintings depicting how the Vietnamese approached the Covid 19 virus.  The paintings were absolutely wonderful; so colorful and lively.  I love kids' paintings anyway but these were fabulous.  I mean, those kids are talented!!  Some of my favorite ones were by 5 and 6 year olds!  And then there was one far and away different from the others, of professional graphic novel quality.  It was by a 14 year old.  The paintings uplifted us after seeing so many atrocities of war and it was brilliant to place such an exhibit in the same building with remnants of war.

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The concept behind most of the paintings is quite sophisticated. I feel the kids were well educated in how to protect themselves and their country.
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These are all so awesome. Here the medical person is saying to the grim reaper, "Nope, hands off this little one."
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Beautifully done!
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The person who painted this one has a promising career ahead of them.
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Outside in the large square flanked by such war machines as tanks, anti-aircraft guns and Mig fighter jets we sat sort of shell-shocked for a long while.  More and more visitors arrived.  As Andrea and I sat and talked about what we had seen we observed people walking around the square.  Most were Vietnamese and I would guess most of the Vietnamese were tourists from the north.  I say this because there was a lot of posing in front of tanks with big smiles and raised clenched fists of victory.  Anyone posing in front of a war machine with a big smile is unsettling to me.  Here in Vietnam it seems to me victory was limited when you know the Vietnamese government continues to jail anyone who criticizes government policies.  There are no free elections.  Vietnam is not a democracy.  The few people of the south with whom we have been able to communicate, don't think much of the north's control.  

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This man had his wife raise both hands in fists positioning her in many different ways with the tank in the background before he was satisfied. I was so amazed by their lengthy photo shoot that I forgot to take a photo of them until she had her back to me and they were finishing up. Just as well actually.
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Possibly a returning GI.
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The benches around us filled with visitors from countries all over the globe.  We sat there for a long time, watching.  Eventually I was getting feelings of togetherness from the more globally aware on the benches near us.  Many of us sat silently staring at nothing, stunned by what we had seen inside.   I got the distinct feeling we were all connected in our abhorrence of war - the utter senselessness of the American War in particular.   In spite of the northerners apparently still in need of declaring some sort of victory with their selfies, the rest of us were maybe just wanting to be nicer to each other from now on; projecting the more valuable remnants of awful, needless wars.

lovebruce

Remnants
Heart 5 Comment 1
Brent HirakDevastating shot… today i will see everything through the filter of war and loss. Thank you for these images. i choose devastation today
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2 months ago
Rate this entry's writing Heart 17
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTHIS is why Dodie especially, a child of a Holocaust survivor, can not, and will not, visit any of the concentration camp sites. It is all too graphic and horrible.
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3 months ago
Lyle McLeod“Everyone we observed seemed happy. I love Saigon!”

You’ve described the Saigon we loved too.

It’s been 16 years since we lived there, and I’m sure that everything has changed. Yet based on your post, nothing has.

And that’s the underlying beauty of Saigon, and Vietnam as a whole; both of these statements are true.

Looking forward to all your upcoming adventures and discoveries.
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3 months ago
Jen RahnFor your museum experience, a few moments of silence.

Imagining the wisdom of those trees.

And the unfiltered insights of the young artists.
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYes, I imagine not. I totally agree.
I haven't been to any concentration camps in Europe but I have been to Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh. That place affected me profoundly. As awful as those places are I come away wanting to help change things for the better no matter how small a way that may be.
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2 months ago