Umbrella Love


Monday, 21 February, 2011

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Vietnam War is a hugely significant part of recent history, thus, we decided to visit the War Remnants Museum on our first day in the country.

This place showcases the many extremely psychotic and brutal methods of torture the American soldiers would carry out on local citizens – it really made for pretty difficult viewing. Ruby was so disturbed that she couldn’t even make it to the second and third floors of the building.

It is the photo galleries that really send the chills down one’s spine, and they really don’t reflect too positively on the American soldiers that were serving their country during that period.

Sure, it is important to understand that they may have been biased and selective when choosing their photos. However, we were still seeing pictorial evidence of the sickening ways in which these soldiers behaved, and frankly, the museum was not short of pictures.

There was one particular photo that I will always remember from this visit, because it featured the image that led to Ruby leaving the room and exiting the building – it was simply that disturbing.

This was a picture of an American soldier, with a grin on his face and a glint in his eye, holding the decapitated head of a Vietnamese woman up to the camera. It’s often stated that war can have a disturbing effect on a person, and I have never seen a finer example of this than the soldier in that picture.

With all of that being said, should you ever go to Ho Chi Minh City, I would certainly recommend visiting the museum. While so much of what is displayed is not very pleasant, it is greatly educational and offers a detailed account on the side of the war that Western films and TV shows tend to avoid. As the saying goes, there are two side to every story.

Well that was all a bit heavy, wasn’t it? Let me share a joke before I reflect on another section of our Vietnam experience, you know, just to lighten the mood a little bit.

Why couldn’t the bicycle stand up?
Because it was two tired.

I suspect you’ll need a few minutes, but once you’ve finished rolling on the floor laughing your arse off, we’ll get into the fight that I witnessed.

I found myself in the front row of a street side soap opera by pure coincidence – lucky old me. Two chubby Vietnamese biker women were brawling in the middle of the street, gathered an audience and I somehow got swept into the front row.

It was funny how the crowd formed, it was like a breaktime scrap at school – all that was missing were the chants of, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” Well, and the superhero teacher that parts the formed circle like a bulldozer before smoothly locking each fighter into a constraint headlock. Oh, there would be more kids too, the entire audience here were adults.

Ok, so it was actually nothing remotely like a playground fight, but it was still very dramatic all the same.

There was a lot of ‘trash talk’, although it mostly went straight over my head. One of the angry ladies pointed to an umbrella at one point, the rest is guess work – I may be completely wrong here, but I’m leaning towards the umbrella being a mutual love interest.

Anyway, the confrontation escalated on the pavement that I happened to be walking on, a crowd rapidly formed, and I was suddenly stuck – front row and centre. I was pretty noticeable too, being the only Caucasian in the whole crowd. My bleach blonde hair and bright green t-shirt didn’t exactly help me blend into the background either.

The scrap was an odd affair – they screamed a lot, they threw one punch each, and then drove away separately. The strangest thing about the clash is that neither woman exited with the umbrella, it was just left there, laid out on the pavement. I can only assume that the umbrella was sleeping with both of them and the girls had finally had enough.

It is difficult to know when people are fighting in Vietnam – that one was clearly an emotionally driven love triangle, but otherwise, it is hard to tell. The Vietnamese are generally some of the nicest people you will meet, however, their natural tone is louder than a space shuttle launch.

Three people could sing ‘happy birthday’ and it would appear as though 40,000 football fans are reacting to a bad refereeing decision. At first, we were really worried we were pissing people off. For instance, we’d be apologising to a waiter after he offered us some water.


The loudest sections of Vietnam are probably the street corners, as they are usually occupied by a bunch of old blokes squabbling over a game of Chinese chess. These boys take their craft very seriously – I reckon an improper move possibly results with a knife in the eye.

I concluded that a snap of the old lads engrossed in their beloved board game was an essential souvenir. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry that action out particularly discreetly. I stupidly left the flash on, virtually blinded the angry men in the process.

They pointed and shouted at me a lot – was this the kind of improper move that would warrant a knife in the eye? I wasn’t willing to wait and find out, thus, we exited the scene very quickly – which, on reflection, was a bit of a shame because my picture is pretty blurry.

Ruby later informed me that she didn’t think they were pissed off by my actions at all, and instead, were suggesting that I joined them for a game. As I previously stated, it can be quite hard to identify the difference sometimes. Although, I’m still convinced that there are ‘WANTED’ posters all across the city with my face on, right about now.

I would have been the joke of the party with my chess board guess work anyway – I don’t know any of the game’s rules. The tables would turn in the end though, Hollywood has taught me that.

Sure, I’d get battered and laughed at initially. However, an old, shamed, washed up Chinese chess player would have been watching the entire game from the distance. We would later unexpectedly cross paths again, leading to him giving me intense training for months. I would then be ready to go back to the chess board and destroy everybody there.

While all of that would have been great, my visa wouldn’t allow the time required to train – only confirming that I was right to run away.

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