We have a busy day scheduled by the tour company. They put all the Americans on the same bus. The guide suffers all complaints and abuses in silence or with polite responses.
We visit the Reunification Palace, which was the Presidential palace until a North Vietnamese tank crashed the gates in 1975. The palace before that was built by the French and bombed by two South Vietnamese pilots flying U.S. made Skyraiders. They were annoyed were Diem and destroyed the old palace in 1962. Both Diem and Kennedy are assassinated the following year.
Madame Nhu was the wife of Ngô Đình Nhu who was the brother and chief adviser to President Ngô Đình Diệm. As Diệm was a lifelong bachelor, and because she and her family lived in the president's palace, she was considered to be the first lady. She was called the Dragon Lady and was tiny, cute and voluptuous but also was widely detested as a personalty, She verbally abused both her husband and his brother. She said, "Power is wonderful, but total power is totally wonderful".
When her husband and brother were assassinated, with the approval of Kennedy, Madam Nhu was shopping in California with her children. She died in Europe in April of 2011.
Next we cruise Chinatown in the bus. There are an estimated 3,000,000 motor scooters in Saigon. You can cross the street easily though a swarm of them as long as you maintain a consistent pace. That allows them to swerve around you. At night, a river of young people on scooters flow around our bus like schools of fast fish around a lumbering whale. There are no old people braving the flow. They drive three abreast with inches of separation They interweave though intersections with breath stopping boldness. Where are they going? I don't know....
Chinatown in Saigon.
We visit the War Remnants museum next. A man with two amputated arms comes up and says hello. There is something wrong with his face and eyes. He offers his stump and I shake it. He says he set off a land mine. I buy a Vietnamese phrase book and a history of the war from him. It's all about class struggle and how history is sometimes made from the bottom up. The author has little use for the American Government or either of the Vietnamese governments. He finds the Americans and Vietnamese peasants who actually had to fight the war equally oppressed. I think I agree with his premise. Later the vendor returns to talk a little. I mention that it is hot and he observes that it is also humid. He wishes me a good trip.
They have a lot of pictures of Agent Orange deformed babies. Some of these are the children of American soldiers after they returned home. They also document atrocities committed by the South Vietnamese on captured Viet Cong. There is little doubt that both sides engaged in bad conduct.
Next we visit the post office, which is also kind of a banking centre that sells souvenirs.
The post office has a Christmas tree. Eight percent of the 90,000,000 Vietnamese are Catholic.
The last stop before dinner is a lacquer factory. They make lovely artwork. Mrs. Phred and I discuss it and decide it doesn't make sense to acquire more possessions. We only just managed to give all ours away last year.