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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Booth

What the Pho!

It's frightening how quickly you can forget experiences and having just come to the end of a 10 day trip to Vietnam, it was nice to jog my memory from my first visit back in 2001.

I can certainly recall the madness of the traffic from my initial trip and the feeling you're risking your life every time you cross the road, particularly in the bigger cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Not even the pavement provides relief from the millions of scooters and motorcycles that dominate the country's highways and byways.

What has perhaps faded from memory is just how friendly and accommodating the Vietnamese people are, especially when you consider the negative impact western nations have had on their history, country and lives. It is down to the Buddhist belief system of forgiveness apparently, which we could probably learn a lot from in the West.

Pho is a common dish all over the country although it has its regional variations. It is a broth containing rice noodles and sometimes bits of beef or chicken into which you submerge a side dish of fresh veg that can include bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, bok choy, coriander and basil herbs, lime juice and a sprinkling or more of fresh chilli depending on how brave you are. Other delicacies were sampled including a variety of fish, rice - in steamed and sticky mounds, as pancakes and as the thin outer layer of spring rolls - noodles, green mango and dragon fruit. I could not quite stomach balut however - a fertilised chicken egg containing a fetus which is steamed and served in its shell. A popular snack at the markets and high in protein apparently.

Of course the major conflict with America, that lasted almost 20 years up until April 1975, is synonymous with Vietnam. There is evidence of this destructive period throughout the country and you can visit a section of the Viet Cong's underground tunnel network at Cu Chi near Ho Chi Minh City and - for a price - have a go at firing automatic rifles from the era at the adjacent shooting range.

However it was the city's War Remnants Museum that provided the most eye opening insight into the Vietnam War for me. The exhibitions included graphic depictions of the effects of Agent Orange and other atrocities that took place, the protests and pleas for peace from around the world at the time of the conflict and of particular interest to me, the lengths photojournalists covering the struggle went to in order to show the world what was happening, many of whom lost their lives in the process.

Sadly, I fear we have not moved on from the aggressive actions of almost 50 years ago. Innocent people are still being displaced and/or killed while those in power pull the strings.

#vietnam #seasia #asia #travelphotography #travels #everydayasia @intrepid_travel @natgeotravel @natgeophotos

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