Our hotel is so centrally located that a few blocks in any direction leads us to something on the Must Do list. This morning within a few minutes’ walk we found ourselves at the War Remnants Museum which we’d decided to skip. But once Jack saw all the planes on display we sidled up to the ticket booth and plunked down our bucks for entry.
It was already steamy hot, and while Jack inspected the collection, I sought shelter from the sun. A young man beckoned me over to his shady bench and the conversation started with the usual opener here in Vietnam, “Are you French?”
“American!” He seemed genuinely delighted.
“Yes,” I said, and I looked over at the war machines and added, “and this makes me sad.”
He turned to face me and spoke earnestly. “Do not worry. It was a long time ago. We are friends now. Americans are good people.”
I thanked him for that, then asked what they learn in school about the war.
“We are taught that America is the enemy. But we know from books and documentaries that Americans are good. War is always bad. It was a long time ago. Don’t worry.”
His name is Peter and he’s a tour guide and we continued our conversation until Jack finished his review of the fleet and found me under the trees. Peter told us that Vietnam isn’t looking backward but is focused on the present and future. We exchanged cards and later he sent us a kind email wishing us well for the rest of our Vietnam journey.
Jack and I moved in to the museum and spent time at the exhibit showing photos of all the anti war protests around the world.
It was Jack’s turn for a sit down and I explored the galleries on the upper floors. Some I just couldn’t face, like the ones focused on war crimes and agent orange. The gallery detailing the timeline of events from the end of WWII to the present was well done, and the memorial to all the press photographers who died was a reminder of the remarkable people who run towards danger instead of away from it, just so the rest of us can know the truth.
We made a quick stop to the Reunification Palace, the site where North Vietnamese tanks broke through the gates, signaling the fall of Saigon and ending the war.
Any lingering doubts we had that the Vietnamese people have moved on from the war were roundly dispelled as we watched the usual photo op/fashion shoot using a displayed tank “of the type” that led the incursion into the palace grounds. It’s not clear what happened to the original.
We needed to purge the war thoughts and spent some time exploring the shops. At an upscale food emporium we found this display, something we haven’t seen since we were last on American soil.
And despite our determination to eat only Vietnamese food on this trip, we couldn’t pass by a Mexican restaurant we found right near our hotel. Margaritas, guacamole and tacos. Say no more.