Monday, May 23, 2005

Nam Means Water and That's Good Enough for Me

May 18
My passport tells me there are six countries from which I cannot purchase or import goods. The list was established in 1993 and names Iraq, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, Yugoslavia, and Vietnam. In the last 12 years Libya has become something of a friend, North Korea something of a problem, and Iraq something of a colony or beacon or albatross depending on where you’re standing. Vietnam has become a tourist destination.

There’s the natural beauty of the Mekong delta and Halong Bay. There’s the sobering Abu Gharib foreshadowing of the War Remnants Museum. And just outside Ho Chi Minh city, at the end of a 40 minutes ride most tourists don’t even think to make is a piece of contemporary Vietnamese culture far less melancholy and much more refreshing than images of American servicemen smiling over Vietnamese body parts. It’s called the Saigon Water Park and it’s where Elise chose to spend her first afternoon on the Asian continent.

For adventure and economy the best mode of transportation is on the back of a motorbike. It was Elise’s first go on the death traps and she arrived at our destination white knuckled. I would like to describe the otherworldly nature of Saigon highways but I’m afraid I’m the boy who cried “traffic” after Thailand and India. Sparing you the details then, I’ll say India and Vietnam tie for craziest roads ahead of Thailand and Cambodia.

We thought the water park might be closed because there was no one there, but it turned out to be open for another two hours. We paid our $4 and bounced towards the slides, wavepool and lazy river. There were about 20 other patrons in the park and an equal number of employees who seemed notably unconcerned with safety procedure.

I’ve seen all the damn temples and markets I can possibly appreciate so watching a movie or going to a waterpark is a great thrill for me. I didn’t think Elise would be so inclined though and I wondered if she’d be willing to admit to folks back home that she’d chosen the twisty slide over the War Remnants Museum. “Yeah, why not?” she said before diving headlong on a watery luge.


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