Vietnam Jan-Feb 1993

(South to North: Saigon-Dalat-NaTrang-Danang-Hue-Hanoi)

 Arrived by plane from Phnom Phen, motorcycle taxi from the airport. After Cambodia quite used to balancing the backpack in front of me while the bike wheels through traffic.

Mekong Delta, moving irrigation water one bucket at a time. The paddy fields are so green here they almost glow.

Hauling pigs to market. Their spines are very bendable, apparently.

Farmers saw the new highway as a great way to dry grain, a bit of a problem for traffic.

Chickens at the market. Very productive area, the 'put a stick in the ground and it will start to grow' type.

Tet holiday. At midnight all hell broke loose in Saigon as what seemed like millions of firecrackers were lit all over the city. Most are a long 'machine gun' type with a few extra explosive ones mixed in. No color or sparkle, just noise, apparently to scare the ghosts away. Occasionally a huge one goes off in the distance like dynamite with a concussion it is possible to sense a split second before it hits.

Island just off Saigon. Chased everywhere by kids calling out 'Ling Xo, Ling Xo'. This apparently meant 'Soviet'. The most common white people the Vietnamese had seen for a while were all Soviets up to this time, and the kids apparently didn't like them much as they were cheap. Played foosball with them which made them happy, and spent the evening watching 'Rambo III' in a cafe.

Mobbed by kids at Dalat. Getting mobbed by inquisitive people common here. Being a movie star must be very tiring.

The bus down from the highlands, an ancient Renault. All kinds of makes and models of transport, usually very beat up and fitted with jacked up suspension and heavy duty truck tires. Roads terrible as a general rule, and it was normal to pass three or four broken down buses on any trip, generally with major engine bits strewn around them.

Filling the bus through the windows. Very little girls tended to be explosions of lace and layers and layers of pretty dresses.

French bread. Vietnam showed a lot of French culture, much more European influence than Thailand. Villages in some places looked surprisingly European, all brick and tile.

Sweetened condensed milk in the bottom, hot water draining through the coffee grounds in the top, perfect chance to sit in a cafe, enjoy a cigarette, and visit.

Most food appears Chinese influenced, and is very good.

Looking over the Marble mountains, Danang.

China beach, Danang. Sea a bit rough. Ten snack vendors, and all they had to sell to was us!

Kids going to school in Hue

Crater at the remains of Khe Sahn airbase. Not much to see, just a partly grown in plain with small excavations all over from scrap metal hunters. Outline of the airfield still visible however, and of course the hills where the North Vietnamese were based still commanded the area. An American veteran who had been stationed at Khe Sahn during the famous seige was there visiting also. According to him only about 250 Americans died there, compared to 17,000 North Vietnamese. He was saying whenever the NVA infantry attacked they never even made it inside the wire, as the bombers would just make an 'S-sweep' and annihilate all of them.

Hanoi much quieter than Saigon, almost only bicycles on the roads.

Signs around exhorting people to work harder for the glory of a strong country, etc.  Interesting how that provides so little incentive compared to a free enterprise system. 

Lenin Park with remains of downed B-52.

Snake juice stand.

A little bit of culture to end my stay, and off on the plane to Laos.

Impressions of Vietnam

Landscape: lots of mountains and rice paddies, lots of sea coast, much more physically beautiful than Thailand. Houses show a lot of European influence, could use a coat of paint.
People: very outgoing, smile and laugh a lot. Women much easier to make contact with than most other countries. Many people show a lot of style in how they dress. For the most very friendly. On the down side the traveller is an almost constant center of attention and English practice. As well there is a bit of the 'milk cow' attitude, where you are seen as a bit of a walking cash machine, which wore me down.
Food: good, cheap, safe. Not as highly spiced as Thailand. French bread very good, as are the little sandwich stands.
Transport: trains expensive, buses plentiful but rough traveling, roads extemely bad.
Lodging: more expensive than Thailand, but usually ok.

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