I wouldn’t mind crushing this damn computer into a million pieces today. It’s been too long since I updated this blog, so I’ve set aside a few hours to do just that on this blazing hot day in Chiang Mai, but I can’t find any inspiration at all. I am worried that the words that will follow may be a flaccid attempt to document something that happened way too long ago to accurately recall. I am too far behind and too distracted by everything around me: the heat, the strange people, the flies, the mellow music that is just making me angry, the feeling that I should be doing more than sitting in some cafe writing this tainted recollection. Some days this is easy and surprisingly enjoyable, but today it’s a chore. It feels I neglected my dishes for so long that they’ve started to mold in the sink, but I have no choice but stick my hands into the mess I’ve made and scrape away the scum that’s crusted semi-permanently on the on every surface. The worst part is that I will spend hours grinding away on this, and in the end, I will still have piles crap left to be cleaned… but I owe it to everyone who has been reading this and supporting me to continue. Most importantly, I owe it to myself to finish what I started for once in my life. I won’t let this become another half read book on my shelf. I apologize in advance if this entry is not the most entertaining or well written thing I have ever created.
Here goes nothing.
After comparing our daily routine to most of the other tourists we met along the way, it seemed like we were going about our days a little differently than most. I usually had very little activity that I could reference off hand when asked what I saw or did. Most people could list off about three or four museums, temples, tours, cooking classes etc. We didn’t do much of this in Saigon, but I still had the feeling that every day was always full of activity even though I usually had very little to brag about at the end of it. Most days were spent drinking liters of fruit shakes and coffee while we continued the never ending hunt for delicious food and illusive trash cans.
There was one main tourist attraction that I actually had some genuine interest in seeing: The War Remnants Museum. We arrived early one afternoon and had time to see most of the first two floors before they closed for a lunch break.
The first floor was pretty much dedicated to conveying the worldwide protest of the Vietnam/American war. It showed a pretty non-biased account of the demonstrations that were held in most major cities around the globe. Considering the kind of information that was to be presented to us further on in the museum, I was glad to see that they did a good job of showing the strong opposition that the American public had to the war at the time. There was a good section on the American martyrs that covered themselves in gasoline on the steps of congress, lit a match and burned to death in the most radical form of protest I’ve ever heard of. It was no surprise for me to see photos of outrage from around the world during the late sixties and early seventies. I realized that this floor was simply breaking people in gently before it presented inevitable and horrific imagery and statistics.
Before we walked up the stairs to the second floor, I knew that I was going to start feeling guilty for being an American by the time the day was over. At least I was with someone that would understand the way I was feeling. Juli, being from Germany, was no stranger to nationalistic guilt. Though both of our countries had a pretty shameful past, at least Germany seems to have finally learned it’s lesson many decades ago and shows no sign of repeating the mistakes it made. America, however, is still, to this day, the bastard bully of the world in many ways despite our aggressive and violent history.
The first room on the second floor wasted no time before jolting you with photos rich with shock value. We had a bit of time to walk around and feel pity for the people of Vietnam before the bell rang and we had to leave until it re-opened in a couple hours.
As we walked to lunch, we discussed all sorts of pleasant things like war, revenge, hatred and general disgust with the human race. Luckily, it took us well over an hour to find the specific food stall that we had decided to go looking for, so the the topic of conversation had time to change and we were able to walk more than necessary to facilitate a strong appetite. The Lunch Lady was her name, and also the name on her food cart. She was located on some road that was just barely not on our map of the city. In the end, the adventure that we had to take to find it was absolutely worth it.
Back at the museum, I had a very difficult time holding it together when it came time to enter the Agent Orange section on the third floor. I shouldn’t have to say too much on the effects that this nasty chemical has had on the population of Vietnam. Even to this day, there are people being born totally deformed from the experimental chemical warfare that American troops used on the population. It’s initial purpose was to kill off the crops and starve out the Vietcong, which is malicious enough, but obviously the effects were much more widespread than that. It’s incredibly disheartening to think that human kind is capable of justifying the manufacture of a chemical that will rip you apart at a molecular level. And who was one of the main corporations hired by the US government for developmental research of such a thing? You guessed it: Monsanto. I hope we are enjoying the sales at the supermarket!
On the whole, the museum was quite informative and factually sound as far as I could tell. The one thing that I can criticize is that it was pretty biased in the sense that it had no information whatsoever on the injustices done by the Northern Vietnamese during the war. I guess you can’t be too surprised by this.
Okay, let’s move on. On a slightly brighter note, we had the good fortune of running into the nice Dutch couple from earlier in our trip. Juli and I had met Peter and Daphne at Ha Long bay on the same cruise that we had met each other. Though our time with them was brief, they had left a lasting impression on me as being some of the few that I would have liked to spend more time with, and now I had the opportunity. Peter’s enchanting smile and Daphne’s contagious laugh were reasons enough to spend the next day drinking and playing pool with them. After proving to one another that we could, in fact, have fun together, we decided to book a tour as a group to the Mekong Delta the next day along with a German girl named Sandra that we had also run into after meeting earlier in our trip as well.
The tour was… well, it was a fucking tour. The Mekong region is definitely beautiful when your not being distracted by some embarrassing activity like having an old man paddle you down the river or riding some broken bicycle through a town of slightly irritated villagers. We learned nothing, but still had fun since we were among friends. Good people almost always guarantees a good day. It was here that we had met the Singaporean and Australia that assimilated into our drinking group later that night.
The last story worth sharing on Vietnam is the one about the afternoon decided to get a massage while Juli went to get her nails done. No, I was not looking for anything more than a massage. It actually took a little effort to find a place that didn’t seem shady enough to probably offer me something that I didn’t feel comfortable paying for. Once inside a seemingly legitimate and affordable massage parlor, I was given the list of different massages that they offered by a cute little Vietnamese girl. I decided to go all out and get the hour long full body. She told me remove my clothes and left the room. Once in my underwear, I lied on one of the four massage tables and waited for her to return. To my utter dismay, she did not come back. Instead a small, feminine Vietnamese man entered with a bottle of oil in hand.
“Actually, I’ll just take a back massage.” I stressed.
“Okay, okay.” He didn’t understand a word of what I said.
I was stuck. After a minute of him working on my shoulders, a large tattooed man came in with the girl that misled me a little earlier and proceeded to get a massage of his own on the table next to me.. The next hour seemed to drag on forever, especially when he got to my, uh… upper thigh area. The three of them seemed to having quite a good laugh. I’m not sure what they were talking about, but my imagination speculated that it had something to do with this tiny little gay man massaging my hairy white ass.
Repulsed and far from relaxed, I met back up with Juli and told her the story as she regaled in laughter.
“So…Did you get a happy ending?”