Fire breathing dragons, strange religions, and communist propaganda in Vietnam

SONY DSCWelcome to Vietnam, the land of napalm and noodles. This country has been through the wars (four since world war 2 ended) and it’s doing amazingly well when you take that into account. Understandably much of the built heritage has been destroyed so most of the tourist sights are about the wars. Take the Saigon tunnels, where you can crawl through the tiny passageways 10 metres underground that the Viet Minh used, or the sobering war remnants museum, which shows the real impact of the war (and Agent Orange) on the civilian population. Let’s just say that it’s not exactly Disneyland. Given what the Western world has put them through, it’s also understandable that the people did not come across as that friendly compared to other countries that we have been to on this trip. We did meet some really great people, but they were by far the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time we were dealing with people who were unpleasant and sometimes even offensive and abusive (to their potential customers!). Communism is the name of the game here and communist propoganda can be seen everywhere you turn in Vietnam.
SONY DSCAside from all this we had a great time in Vietnam, most of it either while letting our taste buds feast on the sumptuous cuisine or our eyes gaze around the beautiful countryside. Everywhere is coloured in luscious greenery, with each square meter filled with rice paddy or some other crop. The white sand beaches are clean (after India anyway), relatively uncrowded (also after India), and dotted everywhere along a sinuous coastline that is perfect for renting out a motorbike and exploring for days on end. The traffic is truly crazy though and definitely the worst that we’ve seen so far. The highlight was when we were driving on a 3 lane motorway somewhere outside Hanoi. There was a tall concrete central divider so vehicles couldn’t cross over from one side to the other and yet there was oncoming traffic in the fast lane. They must have been travelling in that direction for at least a few kilometres because the exits were at least that far apart. At one point I saw a truck overtaking a car flash past me, both of them travelling the wrong direction down my side of the motorway. All the other drivers seemed to think this was normal… Madness. Anyway, enough harping on about my holiday in Vietnam. I know you all only came here for the pictures!
As the man who led Vietnam to victory through a horrific war, Ho Chi Minh is reverred almost like a god here. He even appears in the tacky glowing icons in markets (made in China!)

As the man who led Vietnam to victory through a horrific war, Ho Chi Minh is reverred almost like a god here. He even appears in the tacky glowing icons in markets (made in China!)

Communist propaganda is everywhere.

Communist propaganda is everywhere.

Even the kids are included as we saw at this rally in Saigon that we stumbled upon.

We stumbled upon this rally in Saigon and saw these kids being indoctrinated into the whole Ho Chi Man idolisation/communist propaganda biz.

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And boy does the indoctrination work well. This is the queue to see Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body in Hanoi. This is just a normal day, not even any particular event, and the queue stretched for 2 kilometres!

And boy does the indoctrination work well. This is the queue to see Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body in Hanoi. This is just a normal day, not even any particular event, and the queue stretched for 2 kilometres!

They really, really like Ho Chi Minh. You see him virtually everywhere you look in Vietnam.

They really, really like Ho Chi Minh. You see him virtually everywhere you look in Vietnam.

 

Our friendly neighbour in Saigon

Our friendly neighbour in Saigon

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You think that's a moth? Now this is a moth!

You think that’s a moth? Now this is a moth!

Shortly after their debut appearance in this blog my flip flops flopped their last. Considering that they cost €1.50 in Penneys,and survived 8 months of walking through 10 countries, I think they were a good deal.

Shortly after their debut appearance in this blog my flip flops flopped their last. Considering that they cost €1.80 in Penneys in Galway and survived eight months of walking through ten countries, I think they were a good deal.

Though my flip flops can't compare to the flashy Apple products available these days :)

Though my flip flops can’t compare to the flashy Apple products available these days 🙂

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Who has one thumb and god like powers? This guy!

Who has one thumb and omnipotent power? This guy!

Speaking of strange gods, check this out. Recognise any of these characters? This

Speaking of strange gods, check out this painting we saw in a temple in Da Nang. Recognise any of these people? Cao Dai is relatively new religion (founded 1926 in Vietnam) that incorporates all of your favourite characters into the one belief system. Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and so on.  Strange.

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I'll finish off this post with this: a giant road bridge is Da Nang where the engineers have made a dragon out of the structural supports. Measuring in at an auspicious 666 meters long, it's pretty impressive....

I’ll finish off this post with this: a giant road bridge is Da Nang where the engineers have made the structural supports look like a dragon. Measuring in at an auspicious 666 meters long, it’s pretty impressive….

... until you discover that at night it shoots a giant balls of fire from it's mouth! I wish I had a better photo, but the fireball was astoundingly bright and I wasn't able to correct the camera settings before the brief show was over.

… until you discover that at night it shoots a giant balls of fire from it’s mouth! And who said engineers don’t know how to have fun?

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