Today Vietnam marks 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War. On April 30 1975, two years after the US stopped aiding South Vietnam, North Vietnamese tanks smashed down the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon. The South Vietnamese president awaiting them on the steps of the palace tried to officially give up power, but was told “Your power has crumbled. You cannot give up what you do not have”. With that, the 30 year long struggle for independence and unity was complete.
Vietnam today is incredibly different. Its economy is booming, American tourists are everywhere, and Chinese dominance is now its biggest worry. However, the legacy of the war can still be seen on almost every street. To commemorate 40 years since the war ended, these are a selection of photos I took there in April 2013, showing the numerous faces of modern Vietnam.
40 years on – This would have been the view the last President of South Vietnam had from his palace on April 30 as the tanks rolled down Lê Duãn before smashing down the gate. The palace has been kept mostly as it was then.
Triumphant entry – One of the tanks that entered the palace is now kept in a museum in Hanoi, the former capital of North Vietnam. The pride of victory is still very much present in all the war museums, and there´s a very nationalistic tone.
Trophies – These museums are also full of war trophies captured from the Americans and the French. This Chinook helicopter in Hanoi has a very ominous hole in the cockpit. When you see the equipment a superpower used against them, the pride taken in victory is understandable.
The costs – The triumphant tone of the memorials and museums doesn’t take away the sense of sadness. Nguyen Thi Thu lost 9 sons, 1 son-in-law and 1 grandson in the wars against the French and US. At least a million civilians died in the wars, and the true number will never be known.
Untouched – Some parts of the country today seem to have not changed a bit. Here in Phong Nha, rural Vietnam the gathering of river weed goes on. The only addition is a fridge full of cokes and beer to sell to tourists visiting the nearby caves.
Modern Vietnam – This though is what you’ll see in the big cities, a bustling, hectic and impressive street scene. You can sit on the pavement, drink the world’s cheapest beer, watch the tourists and commuters file by, and never imagine the destruction that took place just 40 years ago.