The Robert Taylor Museum

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The above statues sit outside the Robert Taylor Museum , which I had to photograph because they reminded me of the current crop of politicians – you pick the country.

None so blind as those who will not see what those who elected them can see.

If I don’t hear the complaints, there mustn’t be any.

I never said that, you misunderstood me . . . .   

If you click on the above link you will see a page in Vietnamese, click on the top right hand black box to have a choice of English or Vietnamese. The English is not all that clear, but it will allow you to click on the gallery for more detailed images.

The Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms is the full title of the museum, Robert Taylor is the owner and the operator.

Mr Taylor, who is British, visited Vietnam to work in 1991 to establish a company specialising in the construction of anti-corrosion, insulation, sound insulation and personnel training. He later married a local girl, and in 1996 he settled in Vung Tau, the city in which he now lives.

From a young age he had a passion for collecting old weapons and military uniforms. Over the years he has collected 2500 items; guns, swords and uniforms. About 1500 items are between two and three hundred years old.

In 1996 he began procedures to obtain permission to import the various weapons and uniforms in to Vietnam so as to create a museum. This took four years before he receive the licence to do so. When this happened he sold his assets in the UK.

The museum opened, but in 2012 he divorced his wife, and because of property problems with his wife, the museum was closed.

In 2015 the provincial government offered, as a loan, the current building that Robert  now occupies, and the museum reopened.

The museum has become a ‘must see’ attraction for visitors to Vung Tau City, not just for foreigners, and it is open from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.

DSC00628rForecourt of the museum – the entrance to the building is on the left.

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Welcome

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    There are two floors of exhibits – the above is on the 1st Floor.

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Also on the first floor are exhibits of
Chinese, Mongols, Samurai, Greeks, Romans & Vikings uniforms and arms.

DSC00630rAs we climbed the stairs we met some old friends, Henry VIII

DSC00641rAdmiral Nelson

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Napoleon Bonaparte

DSC00636cPikeman from the 1600’s

DSC00642rThe 2nd floor focused on the Napoleonic wars – French, British, Russian & Dutch exhibits.

DSC00643rA display of British uniforms through the ages.

There is a special area within the museum complex for the Australians.

DSC00652rA display of mementos for Long Tan, and the 50th anniversary of the battle,
which was in 2016.

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Australian evening dress uniforms, with the wall covered in mementos.

DSC00655rMemorial service for the 50th anniversary of the battle.

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WW2 has not been forgotten.

The portrait is of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, who ruled from 1888 to 1918, after which he abdicated and lived in exile in the Netherlands.
He lived long enough to see the rise of Hitler.

Wilhelm died in 1941 and is interned in a mausoleum in the grounds of the house in which he lived from 1919.

German monarchists visit the house frequently, and in 2012 the house had 25,000 visitors from Germany.

For $5 USD the visit to Robert Taylor’s museum was well worth the fee, and extremely interesting.

 

 

 

 

Long Tan

DSC00565rWe docked alongside a working port called Phu My (pronounced Foo Me) in Vietnam.
The port is about a 90-minute bus ride to Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh. Many of the locals still refer to Ho Chi Minh as Saigon.
The Diamond Princess was too large to sail to Saigon, so we had to dock at Phu My. Maureen and I had holidayed in Saigon some years earlier, so the thought of a three hour round trip was not an attractive option. We decided to stay on the ship.

While scrolling through Cruise Critic because others who will be sailing in the Diamond Princess often have comments about previous cruises, I came a cross a couple from Yorkshire in the UK, who were doing a private tour of Long Tan at a cost of USD $60 each, which would drop to USD $40 if there were six people or more in the group.
I e-mailed the couple that Maureen and I would like to join their tour because my daughter’s father-in-law had been involved in the battle of Long Tan in 1966.
Although born an Australian, he was working in New Zealand when he volunteered for the New Zealand army and ended up as an artillery man in the Royal New Zealand 161st battery, which, along with Australian artillery, supported the Australian infantry during the battle of Long Tan.
It is recorded that the combined artillery fired 3500 shells during the three-and-a-half-hour battle.
108 Australian soldiers were pinned down by an estimated 2000 Vietnamese troops. 18 Australians were killed and 24 wounded. It is estimated that close to a 1000 Vietnamese were killed in the action and 3 were captured. The official figures for the number of Vietnamese killed is set at 245 killed and 350 wounded.
I can not do justice to the troops involved if I was to try and describe he battle, so I suggest those interested use this link Long Tan battle for an over view.

If you wish more details watch this excellent documentary of Long Tan, with many interviews with those who took part in the battle

The local town of Ba Ria, about ten kilometers from the port of Phu My, offered a free shuttle service from the Diamond Princess passengers to a local shopping centre, which was to be the meeting point of our guide for the Long Tan battlefield.
We didn’t have to wait long at the meeting place before a ten-seater air conditioned mini-bus arrived to transport us (five couples) to Long Tan.

Glenn Nolan (retired Australian soldier) was to be our guide. Glen had married a local girl and owned a bar and restaurant called Tommy’s Bar. His knowledge of the battle and the back grounds of many of those involved was encyclopaedic. He chatted all the way to Long Tan with anecdotes and information of the places through which we travelled. Having served in the Australian army about five years after the battle of Long Tan, his personal experiences added to the enjoyment of listening to him.

Tommy's Tommy’s Bar & restaurant.

DSC00573rFifty-two years ago, this area was the HQ of the Australian forces in Nui Dat, photo taken 2018.

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Nui Dat 1Fixing things after a monsoon rain storm.
The above three photos are copied from Contact Magazine.

On the night of 16/17th August 1966 the Vietcong mortared the base at Nui Dat and wounded 24 men. The following morning (18th August) a patrol from the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (6th RAR) was sent out to locate the firing position of the Vietcong.
Click on the links above to find out what happened next.

From Nui Dat it was a short ride to the area around Long Tan. We passed what used to be a runway.

DSC00576When I took this photo, I was standing at the end of the runway as it stretched in to the distance. Don’t forget the runway was in use 52 years ago, and the vegetation has grown since.

DSC00577rRubber plantation near Long Tan. This was the terrain in which the battle was fought.

DSC00581rMemorial at Long Tan – only two foreign memorials have been allowed in Vietnam, the Australian memorial here at Long Tan, and the French memorial at Dien Dien Fu. The French lost their battle in 1954.
There used to be a plaque commemorating the battle of Long Tan, but the plaque has been stolen from the centre of the cross.

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DSC00655rcI photographed a memorial photograph taken during the 50th anniversary of the battle.

50 years50th Anniversary 2016

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This is the area where the battle took place. In 1966 it was a rubber plantation and the Australian were hard pressed to hold off the attack.
It was monsoon season and it rained so heavy that the rain hitting the ground causes a half meter high mist to form, which made visibility very poor.
The Australian and New Zealand artillery were dropping their shells fifty meters in front of the Australian lines in an effort to hold off the constant attacks.

DSC00591rCurrent pathway from the road.

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As we left we watched famers harvesting their crop of tapioca – a much more peaceful scene than in 1966.

DSC00610rMinh Dam Mountain Memorial, to the soldiers from this area.

The mountain area was a honeycomb of caves and hideouts for the Vietnamese guerrillas that operated in the area to destroy the American and Australian troops. Bombing by B-52 bombers failed to dislodge the guerrillas.

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All around the walls are those who lost their lives.

DSC00605rThere were thousands of names.

DSC00609rAn interesting place to visit, except that the monkeys would throw rotten fruit at visitors. Perhaps they blamed us for the bombing.

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DSC00624rTommy’s for lunch

All the food on the menu (a mix of western, & Asian) was cooked to order by Glenn’s staff, over seen by his wife.
Maureen and I had a main course each, and soft drinks for Maureen, and a couple of draft beers for me, and the cost was AUD $23, excellent value.
After lunch it was back to the ship via the scenic route.

DSC00662r A day out of site seeing, education, and memories, what more could you want for USD $40 / person?

 

The lowest advertised fare is not always the lowest overall cost.

When I arranged our holiday in Vietnam for my wife and I, and our friends, we were all price sensitive, so I had to be careful of the costs.

Flying out of Sydney we could fly with Vietnam Airlines VietnamAirlines  or Qantas Qantas_Airways_Limited_logo.svg, but when I checked on the prices I realised that Vietnam Airlines had a virtual ‘monopoly’ on the route. Qantas did not operate their own aircraft, but sold tickets on their subsidiary airline Jetstar  Jetstar . Once I knew this I checked the cost of the Jetstar tickets. Their tickets were still too expensive after one added various additional charges for food, drinks, and entertainment.
My wife & I and another couple had flown Jetstar on a domestic route for a ninety-minute flight. We found them satisfactory, but as I am over six feet tall (188 cm in new money), the limited space in economy was tolerable for a maximum of ninety-minutes, so for a flight of eight-hours or more it was was out of the question, so it had to be Vietnam Airlines. Or did it?

I spent some time checking a number of different airlines Malaysian Airlines  MH (our old friend), which would require a night stop in Kuala Lumpur (more cost), Cathay Pacific Cathay_Pacific_logo.svg via Hong Kong was too expensive, Thai International  250px-Thai_Airways_Logo.svg ; a possibility over Bangkok, but they were expensive, so I finally checked Singapore Airlines Singapore_Airlines_Logo.svg and their rate was the same as Jetstar fare when I add on the additional cost for food, drink & entertainment. In fact Singapore Airlines was a few dollars cheaper than the total Jetstar price, and much cheaper than Vietnam Airlines, so it was Singapore Airlines, which would require an hour and a bit transit time in Singapore; but our bags would be booked through to Saigon. (Ho Chi Minh ).

Having flown with Singapore Airlines before I retired, I knew that their economy seating was larger than Jetstar – more room for all of us..

I booked with Singapore Airlines and we left Sydney at 8.30 am and connected with the 2.40 pm flight from Singapore to Saigon, arriving at 3.45 pm local time. I found it ironic that if we’d have booked the more expensive Jetstar we would not have arrived in Saigon until around 10.00 pm.

By using Singapore Airlines our booking would give us the opportunity of taking advantage of their ‘special offers’, which included discounted hotel rates in Singapore, discounted entrance fees to many places of interest, a free tour of Singapore, so a couple of nights in Singapore, at the end of our Vietnam trip, was the way to go.

Am I the only one that finds it funny that Ho Chi Minh’s city code, for the airline industry, is still SGN (Saigon). I suppose it is the same as PEK (Peking) for Beijing or RGN (Rangoon) for Yangon, BOM (Bombay) for Mumbai, CCU (Calcutta) for Kalkata . . . . it must be me.

A war by any other name-Vietnam

225px-Flag_of_Vietnam.svgThere were eight of us (four couples) and we’d visited Malaysia & Sri Lanka so where next. Because I was responsible for arranging the two previous holidays the question was aimed at me.

Brighten RockI was reading ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Green, so I thought why not Vietnam to see the Continental Hotel in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh), where Graham Green wrote much of his novel The Quiet American? I’d love to sit in the hotel for a drink.

Quiet American

Fortunately none of the group had been involved with the Vietnam War, so we didn’t have any hidden memories to consider.

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This is the hotel where Graham Green stayed & wrote ‘The Quiet American’, published in 1955.

I researched various hotels in Saigon for a mixture of price, standard of accommodation, as we were too old for backpacker style hotel and not wealthy enough to disregard the cost. At the same time I contacted a number of local travel agency / companies in Vietnam for ideas and quotes for various tours. I found all of the companies that I contacted cheaper than dealing with an Australian travel company, but I did not have the buyer protection of dealing with an Australian company. Having already had dealings with travel agents in Malaysia and Sri Lanka I felt confident that I would be able to smell a con. In the end I decided to deal with a company called Aurora Travel, and the person who became my main contact was a lady called Van. She couldn’t do enough for me, answering all my e-mails promptly, suggesting places to see, comment on my suggestions, some were positive and some negative, but always kind and friendly.Between Van and my group, via yours truly, we finalised a tour and our hotels in Saigon (Ho Chi minh), Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay. The whole holiday was going to be two weeks from the 28th February, to arriving back in Sydney on the morning of the 15th March. Our time in Vietnam was going to be twelve days with two nights in Singapore on the way home.

After my research of the hotels I picked the Windsor Plaza Hotel in Saigon, which had a shopping arcade underneath.

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Van asked if I realised that this hotel was not in the centre, but that the hotel did offer a free minibus service in to Saigon centre.
We were aware that the location was a little out of the town, but this didn’t bother us, as we knew of the free transport. The actual time to get from the hotel to the centre was about five to eight minutes (depending on traffic) and we didn’t consider it ‘out of town’ at all. The price of the Windsor Hotel fitted our budget, plus for $15 extra a night, we could have a room on the Executive Floor where they served food and cocktails from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm. It was a ‘no brainer’ as we knew that wine was expensive in Vietnam and the Exec Floor served French wines. The best $15 purchase that I’d made for a long time. I think the club floor was a new idea for this hotel, because the range and amount of food was quite large. It was much more than cocktail nibbles, being a range of hot food from fried rice through to various meat dishes, all very tasty.
We did have one small problem; the bar staff kept the red wine in the fridge and the white wine on top of the fridge. It didn’t take long for us to get things changed.

Khao, (pronounce Quar) our guide for Saigon and surrounding area, met us at the airport. Khao is married to an English schoolteacher, and at that time he was about to become a father. He has since become the father of Rosie.
Khao’s command of English was very good, partly due to his father, who used to work for the Americans during the American War, and of course being married to Michelle, his English wife helped. Those of us in the West refer to the war between Vietnam and America as the Vietnam War, but in Vietnam it is called the American War.

The number of motorbikes is frightening, but after a while you get used to them and you are able to cross the road in safety even though the bikes are zipping past you at a rate of knots.

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I used to keep an eye out for an old lady and I would follow her across the road. Age is revered in Asia and I knew that they wouldn’t hit an old lady – I was right. Eventually I ran out of old ladies and had to make the trip on my own.

We had four days in Saigon (Ho Chi minh). On the first day we had a tour of the city followed by a visit to the War Remnants Museum.

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The place was full of US tanks, artillery, planes etc as well as N. Vietnamese equipment.

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The museum also had a guillotine, which had last been used in the 20th century.

From this museum we moved on to the Reunification Palace. It didn’t register with me until we were inside the building and I looked out of the window and suddenly realised I was looking down on the spot where the N. Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates and brought the war to an end.

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The tanks came up the road in front of the fountain and crashed through the gates.

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This is a close up of one of the tanks as a museum piece.

The viewing of the Palace, and hearing of the history of Saigon under the French, South Vietnamese, Americans and eventually the Vietnamese was very interesting.

In the afternoon we visited the tunnels, which are just outside Saigon.

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You can see how small the entrance to one of the tunnels is – the hand belong to our guide. Later we were shown tunnel opening, which have been enlarged to allow well-fed westerners to experience crawling along a tunnel.
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This is the enlarged opening of a tunnel entrance, just for us westerners.

The next picture is the entrance of a tunnel where you can crawl for about 60 metres underground. I tried it but being rather large I become stuck in a tunnel and had to back crawl out. The tunnels have bends in them so you, as the crawler, blocks all form of light which comes from behind. I could not see anything in front of me so wasn’t sure where the tunnel went around a corner – another reason for me to get out. Some of our group did cover the whole underground course.

A shot of the tunnel, after climbing down the ladder from ground level.

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Later we had the chance of firing an AK47 for $1 a shot – two of us ‘invested’ $10 for five shots each – last of the big spenders. We were aiming at targets about 75 meters away – I managed to hit the surrounding sandbags.

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We were also shown various booby traps used during the war. The afternoon was very interesting, and brought to life how frightening the war was for both sides. Carpet-bombing to booby traps.

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The following day we were picked up at 8.00 am and driven to the Mekong Delta.

This was going to be a full day. We crossed the Mekong in a small-motorised boat and once we reached the other side, we switched to a much smaller boat, paddled by one man, who guided us through muddy channels.

 We visited a bee farm – the bees do not sting – just produce honey.
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From here we moved on to a small factory that made coconut sweets, followed by local dancing and then on to lunch. I’m not a big fish eater (can’t stand the bones), but we were offered ‘Elephant ear’ fish.

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From memory, the white bits on the fish are rice grains – I think!

 

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Four fish for four couples – not much was left. We also had very large tiger prawns, spicy beef, fried rice and vegetables, so we couldn’t complain about going hungry. And beer was included, of course, because the weather was HOT!

Next stop would be Hoi An.