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Friday, September 28, 2012

Memories of Saigon: A Photo-Essay (Part II)

Here it is again...
(Continued from )

After running about in the Notre Dame Cathedral (I think it was just me...) we walked over to a nearby coffee place by the name of Trung Nguyen. It appears that coffee is an art form in Vietnam. Vietnamese coffee is recognizable by its smoky, mocha and bitter taste. Their coffee is almost exclusively not of the instant variety, and requires strainers, such as the one you see below.

Mmmmm... classy coffee. Drank by classy tourists.

Unable to keep a straight face during photos. Much like myself!

I like how everyone pretends to be au naturale when I point my camera at them.

I though that was a cookie in his hand. Turns out to be a classy cover for a classy coffee strainer.

He must REALLY like the classy coffee.

Team Saigon, enjoying the classy coffee. Sort of. In a psychotic sorta way.
We headed back to the hotel after all that. We were absolutely bushed, what with all the walking and the sweating. You see, our day in Saigon was far from over. 

After some napping, resting and recharging, we headed out for dinner with Thanh once again, our friendly and informative guide. This place serves some odd stuff, like chicken bones. Or was it pig bones. I don't know. I don't know any more! once again, we all sat on chairs for little people. The Vietnamese are really small, and my buttocks disagree, but it was fine. 

This is an odd dish for me. Something to do with pork bones or something.
After dinner we headed out to the Saturday night salsa scene, a club called 'La Salsa' run by a local salsa dancer and instructor, Ms. Han. When Thanh told her Malaysian dancers were coming to dance, Ms. Han took the liberty of calling all the dancers she could to greet us. The reception was amazing, and the people there were incredibly warm.

Me love you guys long time!
Sunday, 12th August 2012 (0800 hours local time):

Another early morning for me. This has becoming a disturbing trend, waking up early and all that. There was a little drama the night before and I broke my beloved glasses! Thanh was kind enough to bring me to her regular optometrist to get it sorted out. You know what? I made a cheap pair of glasses and I replaced the lens on my regular glasses. It all costed me VND 600,000 which is about RM 99.00. Amazing thing the Dong. I like Dong. 

That didn't sound right.

After that, Thanh brought us about in her company car, first taking us to the Chua Ba Thien Hau. Although vaguely sounding like cuss words, this quaint, lovely temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy (I think). It bore many similarities to the numerous temples I have visit in China and in South-East Asia dedicated to Her Goddess-ness. Honestly, there was nothing particularly exciting about it, but traditional stuff is always nice to look at on a balmy weekend afternoon.

Light my fire, light my fire...

No mosquitoes here. Nope.

I honestly find these altars personally terrifying.

Intricate mantlepiece

After the temple excursion, Thanh took us driving about, all the way to District 7 of Saigon. To the uninitiated, the Districts are like towns within Saigon. Imagine in KL, you've got Kepong in one corner, Taman Tun in another, and the City Centre and the far corner, etc. City Centre in Saigon happens to be District 1. District 7 is apparently a posh, upper-end joint, sorta like Mon't Kiara, what with all the international schools and the like. I don't have any urban pictures because I fell asleep. You know I'm not good with long car rides! Don't judge me!

The car ride was followed by lunch at a quaint restaurant that locals frequent. Being foodies, we were happy not to visit commercial tourist places, and instead check out local joints. The food did not disappoint! Oh, another thing. Going about town, you never see any dwellings yet apparently people stay smack in the middle of town. How is that possible? Witchcraft? Trickery? Or............ really narrow houses in the back-alleys...?

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After lunch, for the main event, we visited the War Remnants Museum. Ever visit Saigon? You must check out this Museum! Its not like other boring old museums.This one stands out in my mind! Have a look!

Nothing interesting in this shot. I took this just so I could remember the address. And to join other annoying tourists.

There are tons of leftover American war machines from the Vietnam War.
I think this is a Northrop F5 fighter jet.

An impressive looking Chinook helicopter. I've never seen one in the flesh (so to speak) before.

Is that a rocket in your launcher, or are you just glad to see me?
A Gunship Huey , complete with a mini-gun on the other side.

A large unidentified (by me) bomber plane.

A smaller, unidentified (by me) bomber plane. It looks like a bloody mosquito.

Had to take this one. Really, I did.

Don't lose your head.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. An old photograph of a beheaded prisoner.

A small cage used to keep prisoners. 4-5 of them at a time

A door with a surprise inside... Look into that flap. Yes. THAT flap.

A painting on the wall indicating how prisons used to look. Maybe it still looks like this. I'm not finding out.

"What? No room service? Your prison sucks!"

I found the following pictures incredibly moving. I risk sounding over-dramatic but as a photographer, seeing these amazing moments immortalized on film, is a testament to the art of photography, and the power and impact the right photo wields. I was moved to tears, not so much for the content of the photos I admit, but for the impact it had on my damned soul. 

I'd like to share some of these photos with you. I am reluctant to show all the photos for several reasons - Firstly, many of these shots are particularly morbid. I don't want my blogpost to be turned into a Gorn Fest. Secondly, my pictures of pictures, could never come near to conveying the rich stories these photos provide. As a disclaimer, obviously none of the following shots are mine. I had to mention that for some idiots out there.

A Vietnamese man begging for compassion to an American G.I.

A well-known form of water torture. A towel is placed on the face of the victim and water is poured
over the victim's face. The towel impedes breathing causing victims to painfully choke and
gag on the water. You're saying water torture is an Oriental thing? Look again.

An American G.I. holding up the remains of Vietnamese. Yes, it was a bomb. Lets not blow this our of proportion.

An amazing photo of American soldiers disembarking from helicopters in a middle of a field with long grass.

The following photos are from the Agent Orange display showcase. Here museum visitors can view photographs of the ghastly effect of chemical warfare. Actually, its more like, slingshots versus acid bullets of fire. 

A 'Before/After' aerial shot of the forest surrounding a river bend.

Beauty in tragedy - A young victim of Agent Orange.

A special needs individual, another victim of Agent Orange, being fed by his mother.

A special needs individual having a shower with help from his mother.

all of pictures of fallen photographers in the field. including the great Robert Capa. RIP.

After the War Remnants Museum, we headed back to the Hotel for our much needed siesta. Not long after that, we were quickly on our way for dinner (which I don't have photos - I dislike too many pictures of food). This time we were without Thanh, as she had another engagement. No worries about that, since she has done so much for us thus far.

After dinner, we headed to the Caravelle Hotel, a swank joint near Dong Khoi Street (a posh street selling posh stuff). The 9th Floor in the said swank Hotel was Saigon Saigon Bar, our Sunday night salsa destination!

The pretty girl in blue is Uyen, our new friend from Vietnam!

Team Saigon, GO!

More new friends! The pretty petite lady in red is Han. The chap in the red shirt and the other
chap in the yellow/black Hillfiger shirt are also locals. I don't know their names though.

Han and Myself. I seem to be glowing in the face for some odd reason.

Omygawd! More new friends! This time the Latin Band joins us! I have no idea who they
are, all I know is that they are a barrel of fun! And sporting to boot!

Emily's adoring fanclub! The guitarist seems to have taken a liking to our salsera!
You know the amazing thing? Just before we left, when the was poised to start their final set of the night, we asked the Lead Singer if he could play us a Rueda-friendly song. The band happily obliged! You know what? We danced a Rueda, every night we went out dancing! Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night! Best part is, some of the local dancers joined in on our Rueda! It was an amazing honor!

What a reception! These guys are incredible! Vietnam is incredible!

As reluctant as we were to leave this great atmosphere, we had to leave earlier to get some actual shut-eye, as our airport transfer was to pick us up at 5:30 AM for our 7:30am flight to Da Nang, the next stop of our Vietnam adventure!

Stay tuned for more postings!

(To Be Continued!!)

For those of you who like statistics:
Vital Stats for September: 1 post 62 pics
Vital Stats So Far: 159 posts 6,023 pics

Disclaimer: The views published in the above photoblog are the author's and the author's alone. If readers are not agreeable with the above views, well, you can bugger-off. All rights are reserved for the the photos and/or articles itself. This article may be reproduced with permission for the author or private or public usage, or other forms of general mayhem. Any unauthorized usage of the images and/or article contained therein is expressly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted with the full force of Malaysian law applicable. Thank you for reading this disclaimer.

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