The Secret HQ of the Viet Cong in Saigon During the Vietnam War – above a Noodle Shop used by US Troops.
Above Photo: Noodle soup with a difference.
A long walk from the centre of Saigon brings you to a nondescript noodle shop called Pho Binh, which has a famous (or infamous, depending on which side you were on) history.
It sells the most fantastic noodle soup, but upstairs are secret Viet Cong meeting rooms. From here they planned many of their Saigon attacks, before it was discovered and closed down after the 1968 Tet Offensive – which was also planned in the Saigon region from here.
After we’d eaten, we were taken on a tour of the upstairs rooms, which have been left virtually untouched since the end of the war.
Vietnam’s National Museum has asked for the furniture to be given to them for a display but the owners have stubbornly refused, and rightly so, as the impact of walking into the cool, tiled, furniture-filled room is more dramatic than if it was just another museum exhibit.
The noodle shop opened in 1958, was closed in 1968 after the Tet Offensive in Saigon, and after the Fall of Saigon in 1975 it was recognized as a Vietnamese National Monument, and reopened as a noodle shop.
Just before the Tet Offensive in 1968, the owner received an instruction to buy food for 200 people for a month, and ended up accommodating a group of 30 Viet Cong women fighters in the lead up to the Tet attacks.
As American servicemen and officers ate noodles below, the Viet Cong commanders planned attacks in the room above them.
After the Tet uprising, the owner of the shop and his wife were suspected of being somehow involved. They were arrested by the South Vietnamese, tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment, although they were released in 1973.
We walked through the rooms with our guide. I was interested to see where they hid messages behind pictures, and also a display of the many medals the owners had received after the war.
In a slightly irritating end to the ‘tour’ we were royally fucked for the price of the food, costing us THREE TIMES what it should have cost, and it was the biggest rip off we have experienced in nearly 4 weeks in Vietnam.
What annoyed me the most was that I had already tipped the guy for him giving us the tour, before he jacked up the food prices.
Still, it’s nice to know that scheming to get one over on foreigners in the Pho Binh shop is still an ongoing, if considerably less deadly, pursuit.
Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
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© Peter Alan Lloyd
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