Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Into the Back Country

The Vung Tau leg of our trip is ending. Had a wonderful stay at the Valley Mountain Hotel. I'll write a review later. I highly recommend it if you have reason to be in Vung Tau. They treated us very, very well.

Today we head for Cat Thien National Park. Our route will take us through or near some of the country where I humped the boonies 40 years ago.

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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.