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HO CHI MINH CITY (HCMC) SAIGON VIETNAM

August 27, 2011

poem of poet Le Minh Quoc – translated by Vo Thi Nhu Mai 11/9/2011

SIMPLICITY

put aside whatsoever is ponderous and weighty

I soothe myself into sleep so that I can dream in fantasy

with the hope of seeing her as I pray

though the road ahead is filled with dust and gray

 in the open joyfulness of life

I write verses

like an artist paints to retrieve his last night reverie

using sparkling colours of memory

I learn to love in the twilight shadow

though bloom of youth has faded away the rosy lips

she remains as graceful as river – deep

barren was I like pepples and rocks

has anyone ever pondered

–          that how long the sunlights remain superb?

–          whether today the clouds and winds will be tumulting?

–          if she will respond to my love?

I only need a shady tree

to lie down

 eyes wide open looking at the faraway sky

 her vagued verses looming in my mind

I tell myself that is delight

the truthful joy in life

as simple as breathing in and out daily

the joy of being sunk in memory

though she never talks about it

the joy of not listening not looking

is the east sea tilting the side to be distant from the shore?

Le Minh Quoc

Lê Minh Quốc

Le Minh Quoc (1/8/1957) is a Vietnamese poet, journalist, writer, literary critic and an artist. He was one of the great contributors to the romantic poetry in the Vietnamese language. With his greatest passion in poetry, Le Minh Quoc wrote excellent lyric poems trembling the hearts of many readers. He is also the author of many books such as Vietnam Education, Vietnam Famous Figures, Celebrity Love Stories, Quang Nam People, Vietnamese Celebrity of Culture … Le Minh Quoc won the second prize in the competition on Family Library. 70 percent of his books are on literature, arts and culture.

Born in Quang Nam Da Nang province, Le Minh Quoc joined the army from 1977 to 1983 in Vietnam – Cambodia war. He entered Ho Chi Minh University of Social Sciences and Humanities from 1984 to 1987. From 1988 till now, he holds the position of literature and arts committee in chief of Woman Magazine based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Some of his poetry collections including: In The Dreaming World (1989); I Draw My Face (1994), Love Poems by Le Minh Quoc (1995); Love Poems of Le Minh Quoc (2010); I’m Passionate about Poetry, 2003); An Ant Journey

 

HO CHI MINH CITY (HCMC for short), still known as Saigon to its seven million or so inhabitants, is Vietnam’s centre of commerce and the country’s biggest city by far, though not its administrative capital – an honour that rests with Hanoi. Fuelled by the sweeping economic changes wrought by doi moi in 1986, this effervescent city, perched on the west bank of the Saigon River, is in the throes of a programme of re-invention shaking it to its French-built foundations. Years of rubbing shoulders with the consumer-oriented Americans made the Saigonese wise to how to coin a profit. Now they are pressing old, near-forgotten skills back into service, as the market economy shifts into gear again, challenging Singapore, Bangkok and the other traditional Southeast Asian powerhouses.

SAIGON was originally part of the kingdom of Cambodia and, until the 17th century, was a small port town known as Prey Nokor. As more and more settlers moved south it was absorbed by Vietnamand became the base for the Nguyen Lords.

Saigon was captured by the French in 1859, and named the capital of Cochinchina a few years later. The city served as the capital of the Republic of Vietnam from 1956 until 1975, when it fell to advancing North Vietnamese forces and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City by the Hanoi government.

The official government census only counts those who have official residence permits, and, today, as many as one-third of the population could be living here illegally. Some of these illegal residents lived in the city before 1975, but their residence permits were transferred to rural re-education camps after reunification. Many have simply sneaked back into the city, although without a residence permit they cannot own property or a business.

Explosive growth is evident in a slew of satellite suburbs beyond the center and a glut of high-rise buildings, joint-venture hotels and colourful shops downtown. Downsides include the sharp increase in traffic, pollution and other urban ills, but a more open minded new generation may infuse HCMC’s chaotic growth with a more globally conscious attitude.

REUNIFICATION PALACE - * Reunification Palace Also known as Independence Palace (this is the old name). This is a restored 5 floor time warp to the 60s left largely untouched from the day before Saigon fell to the North (construction started in 1962 and finished in 1966). Formerly South Vietnam's presidential palace, the war ended on April 30, 1975 WHEN A TANK SMASHED THROUGH THE GATES.

REUNIFICATION PALACE (ETAIL)

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL BUILT BY THE FRENCH

VIRGIN MARY STATUE IN FRONT OF THE NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL - During October 2005, the statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral. However, the top clergy of the Catholic Church in Vietnam confirmed that the Virgin Mary statue in front of a cathedral did not shed tears, which nevertheless failed to disperse the crowd flocking to the statue days after the incident. The reported 'tear' flowed down the right cheek of the face of the statue.

NOTRE DAME CATHERDRAL  - STAINED GLASS WINDOWS

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL - PARISHIONERS

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL

HCMC MUNICIPAL THEATER FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE SAIGON OPERA HOUSE

GENERAL POST OFFICE - HO CHI MINH CITY - The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century. It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area.

GENERAL POST OFFICE (INTERIOR) - HO CHI MINH CITY

GENERAL POST OFFICE (INTERIOR) - HO CHI MINH CITY

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

ROOF TOP BAR AT THE OPERA VIEW HOTEL - HO CHI MINH CITY

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

HO CHI MINH CITY - STREET SCENE

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - The museum was opened in a hurry, less than five months after the fall of the South Vietmanese regime. It has moved to new premises with 3 stories of exhibits and various U.S. military hardware (tanks, jets, helicopters, howitzers) on display outside the building. This disturbing display of man's cruelty during the Vietnam (American) War includes halls full of gruesome photographs, a simulated "tiger cage" prison and jars of deformed foetuses attributed to contamination by Agent Orange. There is very obvious bias as there are no "records" of any unpleasant deeds having been committed by the North Vietnamese Army. An exhibit on the 3rd floor tells the story of the war journalists from all over the world who documented, and often disappeared or died in the war. Watch out for the amputees who will try and sell you their wares.

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - HO CHI MINH CITY

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - HO CHI MINH CITY

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - HO CHI MINH CITY

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - HO CHI MINH CITY

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - HO CHI MINH CITY

CU CHI TUNNELS - Cu Chi tunnels are about a 1.5 hr drive out of HCMC centre. The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War. and were the Viet cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968.The tunnels were used by Viet Cong during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, through which they secured American withdrawal from Vietnam and ultimate military success.American soldiers used the term "Black echo" to describe the conditions within the tunnels. For the Viet Cong, life in the tunnels was difficult. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and vermin. Most of the time, guerrillas would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge for supplies, tend their crops or engage the enemy in battle. Sometimes, during periods of heavy bombing or American troop movement, they would be forced to remain underground for many days at a time. Sickness was rampant among the people living in the tunnels, especially malaria, which was the second largest cause of death next to battle wounds. A captured Viet Cong report suggests that at any given time half of a unit had malaria and that “one-hundred percent had intestinal parasites of significance".

A TUNNEL ENTRANCE - CU CHI TUNNELS

KITCHEN - CU CHI TUNNELS

VIETNAMESES SANDALS MADE FROM OLD TIRES - CU CHI TUNNELS

ENTRANCE TO A CU CHI TUNNEL JUST LARGE ENOUGH FOR ONE PERSON TO CRAWL THROUGH

EXAMPLE OF B-52 CRATER - CU CHI TUNNELS

ON THE WAY FROM HO CHI MINH CITY TO THE CU CHI TUNNELS WE STOPPED OFF AT A TYPICAL FARM, HERE ARE FEW PHOTOS:

FARM HOUSE AND SHED

RICE PADDY

DRYING THE RICE IN THE SUN

RICE HUSKER - Used in the process of removing the chaff and the outer husks of rice grain

RICE READY TO BE SHIPPED TO MARKET

FLOWERS ARE GROWN FOR COMMERCIAL SALE

JACK FRUIT

VIETNAMESE GEESE

ASIAN OXENCASHEW NUTS FROM THE CASHEW TREE

CASHEW NUTS FROM THE CASHEW TREE

PHOTOS BY:

LEONARD EPSTEIN

JANELLE BURGESS

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