Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Morning, Vietnam

Maggie and I landed in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday just before noon. We had a 20 hour flight including a layover in Taipei and what I estimate was 33 consecutive hours of dark starting at sundown in Olympia on Saturday before we headed to the airport. Once on the ground, the real adventure began. We had to locate a cab (not hard at a major airport) for the ride across town to the ferry dock where we booked passage on hydrofoil to Vung Tau, find a cab there and get to our hotel. We managed to do that despite being pretty strung out after the long trip. And then we slept.

The most amazing aspect of the trip so far is the traffic in HCMC. I've seen nothing like it before. Easily half of the vehicles are motorbikes that ebb and flow between automobiles that weave around them. It's a strange sort of dance that makes for lots of close encounters--I think I could have touched some of the cyclists without stretching my arm at all--but no accidents.

The ride across HCMC convinced me that I made the right choice for my first few nights in-country. HCMC is way, way too intense. Vung Tau is a tourist trap but it's pretty low key. I was in Vung Tau during my Vietnam Tour. The 1st Cavalry Division had an in-country R&R center where they sent my company every six weeks or so to get us out of the bush. Back then the Australians ran the town--it was their sector--and it catered to the military with prostitutes, weed, air-conditioning and restaurants.

So far nothing looks specifically familiar but instead of zeroing in on the GI's, the town emphasizes tourism. What does seem familiar is the way street vendors hawk stuff. Maggie and were swarmed several times. A vendor saw us in a restaurant and stood on the sidewalk showing us stuff through the window.

The Communists may have won the civil war but the South Vietnamese seem to have come up with a decent work around. Nothing looks particularly socialist that I can see.



Blogger Chuck said...

Great, bro....really interested in hearing your reports. It's been 43 years since I've been there...keep posting your impressions.

6:44 AM  
Blogger BadTux said...

The North won the civil war, and the South won the peace. Hmm... where have I heard that one before? :).

I've never been to Vietnam, and likely never will. I was born too late for that clusterf*ck, thankfully...

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I served with the 1st Infantry in VN during 69-70. I now live in HCMC and have clocked 13,000 kilometers on my 135cc Yamaha, I ride the streets almost every day, if I don't have a couple of near-death experiences a week I feel deprived. Never did get to go to Vung Tau while I was in country during the war. My unit, the 2nd of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry weren't allowed to go into towns. I think we raised a bit too much hell. I did stay in Vung Tau for 6 months this last year. A very likable little place of 400,000 people with no crime and safe streets and decent beaches, but a bit crazy on the weekends and holidays. Still many many Aussies here now. When the North came into power in 75, VT was a ghost town as most of the populace fled the area. The majority of the town is now populated by Northerners and feels like a town from the north in many ways. The saying here BT is; the north won the country, the VC got the Chu Chi Tunnels. And little else.

11:09 PM  
Blogger chrisstegman said...

You are living in the past 8f you haven't visited Vietnam in the present. I was an anti war activist and CO back in the day. Wemt there in 1993 and again in 2018. Its a nation and people on the move and developing fast. Many vets have gone back to heal ans find peace.

5:19 PM  

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