Month: September 2013

A Piece of Vietnam History, in the Corner of Indonesia

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It’s a new history. You don’t need to throw back time to 12 or 16 century, or even BC. It’s in our country, relates to our neighbour, and it’s 1970s.

Few years ago, I entered the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. I pretend to be strong but my heart cried a lot. The pictures of Vietnam War victims were disturbing. You can almost felt the pain when you saw their expressions.

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June 2013, the car go along windy roads. It’s my third day in Batam, I’m heading to Galang Island. what do you expect from this hot and humid city? Not a major destination in Indonesia anyway. Our domestic tourists only went here to reach Singapore by boat.

But if you never explore, you’ll never know.

Galang is the end of few small island just after Batam. A long-long bridge, Barelang, joined them all. At the end of the bridge, you’ll face a gate leads into Ex-Vietnam Refugee Camp.

Monkeys are everywhere. They’re climbing trees, hanging out at the roadside, miserably looking at the visitors, hoping for peanuts and foods. There’s only one major road in this camp. Just few minutes later, I start seeing old buildings such as church, health clinic, and cemetery.

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A museum opens from 9 am-5 pm will explain all questions popped up in your mind. The refugees came here by 1979-1996. Hundreds of them ran out of Vietnam, escaped from the deathly war, floated in South China Sea for months until Indonesia and United Nations (UN) agreed to help them by built this camp.

Tens of them died in this camp. The most powerful killer is Vietnam Rose, a venereal disease that brought by themselves. But hundreds of them survived. Indonesian government, along with the UN and Garuda Indonesia brought them back home to Vietnam by 1996.

Here in this camp, you’ll not only see the ruins of hospital, quarantine barracks, or cemetery. You’ll see many places of worship, different religions such as cathedral, church, even the beautiful monasteries.

Yes, it’s a new history. At those years, we celebrated Independence Day for decades. But in the corner of this country, hundreds of people were desperately need a freedom.

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Postcard: Why I Loved It So Much

The bell rang. I ran outside, a postman waited patiently in front of the house. “Grandma! Grandma! Here it comes!” I said happily. She signed a paper-something and let me accept what the postman brought: a postcard.

February 6th, 1993. I was 5, and the postcard came exactly on my birthday. It’s not an usual postcard, because the sender, was my Dad.

He worked abroad for about 6 months. Few months before, I also received postcards from where he went. Berlin, Amsterdam, and few more cities that I didn’t remember. But everytime I asked my Grandma where is Dad now, she always answered, “Europe, honey. It’s far away from here. Even the language is not similar with the one that we used to say.”

I can see that clearly in the birthday postcard. It’s from London. The postcard filled with picture of places, each of them got a name that written below, and I just couldn’t spell it right. I didn’t remember the pictures, but I can guess it now… Maybe Big Ben, Thames River, Westminster Abbey… British Museum.

Then I started to imagine, my Dad was there. Walking along Thames River, seeing the city from the top of London Bridge, sniffing colourful flowers that perfectly bloomed on spring.

Through postcard, I could see my Dad. I knew where he went, made me sure he’s okay. Through postcard, I couldn’t stop imagine tens thousand places on earth worth traveling for.

Currently, even though people can easily see the photos of destination or follow one traveler’s journal on social media, I just can’t forget what a simple postcard gave to me… A hope to a little girl who missed her Dad so much.