You can see from the decorations they're getting ready for the Christmas holiday here in VietNam. They're crazy about Christmas here. Every store has their employees decked out in Santa hats. The girls have these cute lil Santa mini skirts on. The trees are festooned with lights and fake packages. 2 days before Mike and I were sitting in the pool at the Malibu resort in Mui Ne having a drink at the pool bar, with Vietnamese Christmas carols blasting out of the sound system, with the palm trees lit with Christmas lights and full sized wrapped packages placed 30 feet up in the trees....as Bryan would say...."It's so surreal man".
Monday, August 17, 2009
On our final day in SaiGon we walked abit and had the waiter take a pic as we took a break from the heat here atop the Rex Hotel. It's called the Roof Top Garden I believe. Never see too many
people here during the day but at night it's rockin'.
This young couple in love takes a picture outside the Notre Dame Cathedral with a small park in the background. You can see the Post Office to the right. It's quite impressive inside too with it's turn of the century charm and huge oak or teak woodwork. Jack Ingoldsby made me send him a postcard from VietNam to add to his collection and on my trip to Cambodia this coming Oct. I'll make sure I jet one off to him from there too.
I saw no less than 3 or 4 couples taking pictures here near the church on this day. The heat was sweltering too and look not a hair out of place.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Near Cam Rahn town this cemetery gets a little help from some cows on cleanup duty. Just alittle off the sides if you please. They're moseying along catching a free meal where and when they can. This must be prime pickin's because of the fertilizer buried beneath.
Here just outside of Nha Trang heading south on Hiway #1 but before you get to Thanh Than. Rice paddies in the background, a palm tree, and a small path leading to where ever. The site of this lane makes me want to go explore where it goes and talk to the people who live down there. Very intriguing for me.
Another typical stand you'll find along side the road as you travel. Just the basics, pho, bun, nguoc......a cafe, I love it! These are the best places to stop and chat with people. You're off the beaten track when you stop here my friend. Just basic supplies, maybe a flat tire kit, water, pop and locals. They'll come out of the woodwork to see a foreigner here too.
Another shot of the the sleeper bus. As you can see people were up and about moving around some during the drive. At every stop there was a stampede to the doors for a pee break. Even when there was no where to go. Some women just went along side the bus and did their business...no biggie!
I had heard alot about these buses but had never seen one. So on our trip to Mui Ne this is what showed up at our hotel for the ride. As you enter you're asked to remove your shoes and given a small plastic bag for their storage. There are 3 rows of bunks with 2 high going the length of the bus with the back row having a couple more. All in all a very comfortable way to travel. Abit of a climb to the top bunk for some but doable for most.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Nice picture of the bay, wasn't the nicest day to sit on the beach but we did for about a half an hour. Some locals offered us quail eggs but I was skeptical so I passed. Maybe next time I'll be more adventurous. Back in 1971 this area was all military and at full capacity with buildings and people. Now deserted it looks better I think and more peaceful. There was a R&R beach here in CRB but I never saw it.
Here's the Cam Rahn Bay Bridge I spoke about before. I crossed this so many times going to the Depot. I once saw a red 1964 Mustang fast back coming down this road. I was in total shock, I think the LT was with me that time and we both just stared in amazement. One of those "I can't believe what I just saw" moments.
Here we go touring around the AO stopping where ever we wanted and doing whatever we
wanted. No one gave us any hassle and we stopped at a couple little cafes to have a coke and a pee break. We met up with a christian moto tour while in DaNang and they had a ball taking 2 weeks on motos all over VietNam. This is the best way to see the country. Mike has a full dressed Fat Boy at home and felt abit foolish on his lil scooter but mine was the same size bike as I have at home and was perfect for me. Automatic also so not much trouble to drive.
This is what awaits you at the Cam Rahn airport. Cabbies ready to pounce. $20 for the 30k trip to NhaTrang or you can take the bus for $2.50 like we did. As it turned out a really smart move because our mini bus driver turned us on to a fantastic hotel on the beach for $12 a night. We spent about 3 days in Nha Trang visiting my friend Dat and Vy. Not much time on the beach but plenty of good food. Mike and I rented motos for the day $4USD and had a blast exploring the countryside. We ventured down the new Hwy #1 which is the airport road and then out onto old Hwy#1 past my old base at Dong Ba Thin and then north past rice paddies and small villiages. I had made part of that trip back in 1971 driving base emplyees home and never felt comfortable out that far from DBT. I enjoyed this trip much better.
We spent some time at Hoi An during our stay in DaNang and met a couple of interesting people. The original "Easy Riders" motorcycle touring company out of DaLat. They were really nice guys. They take people around the countryside by moto on custom tours. There are a couple rip off Easy Riders also so be careful which one you get. Like the Sihn Cafe....We met Bryan at the bank in Hoi An and he looked like a lost puppy so we offered him a ride back to DaNang with us via our hired taxi. He took a room at a guest house for $9 a night and settled in at Lien's Cafe for a night of drinking and carrying on...which we helped him achieve. He was from Cali and was on vacation. Intent on losing all his money on whiskey and cavorting with lewd women. We tried to take care of him but in the end you can't argue with a drunk. We left him at Lien's with money hanging out of his pocket and quite pissed as I remember.
Friday, August 14, 2009
This is Sau, she is Buccaroo's little sister.
They both have worked at Lien's Cafe in DaNang. She is so much fun to be with. Making jokes and telling stories. Her older sister now is married and has a baby, She moved backed to Dong Ha and Buccarooski took her place. Lien's cafe has moved across the street and her sister Linh has taken over the reins of the cafe. I keep telling her I'm coming back to "sign the papers" one day and take her away from all this.....she howls when you tell her that and calls you a "Big Liar". Then I call her a "Viet Cong" and she says good" now I kill you!"
This is Nurse Hien and her beautiful baby. She is on staff at East Meets West Dental Clinic in DaNang. I met Hien on my first return visit to VietNamin 2004 and became quick friends and had many wonderful times together. She's a great nurse and a beautiful person. She married afew years ago to Tanh and has this pretty little girl who looks just like her daddy!!! We all went for pizza this night as we usually do and she brought her baby along. She loves spaghetti too! I hear from reliable sources she's expecting again, hope she has a boy this time.
We took a nice drive out beyond the old China Beach in DaNang to one of the prettiest beaches in VietNam. They're building a huge Buddhist Temple up on Monkey Mountain and about a mile beyond there's a respite for weary travellers. You have to be part mountain goat to get up and down the hills but it's worth it. Nurse Hien and her cousin took me here back a few years and I just loved it. Great beach, good food, cold beer and crystal clear water. Some of the best in VietNam that I've seen.
As I said Trinh has moved on so to speak and will be gone from this middle school soon enough. She's doing very well and her teachers say she does excellent work I hear she needs a new bike also. Guess we'll see what can be done about that. I didn't get to visit her parents this trip and my driver implored her to let them know I had taken care of her school and how much I left them lest they take advantage. It hasn't happened yet so I doubt it will happen.
My adorable friend Trinh or Trinnie as I call her. She's growing so big and I can't believe it when I see her each year. She's in the middle school now and not at the same elementary school where I met her. I stopped on my way and they told me she had moved. The old principal Mr. Vu was also not there. Most of the same teachers were there too. I also looked for my other friend that lives close by but she was at school also. We had a tough time finding the school, my ever trusty driver "thought" he knew where it was.....duh!
The kids are doing their morning work out to the beat of the incessant drum. Boom Boom Boom. We had arrived in DaNang and went directly to the East Meets West Dental Clinic to see my old friends. Afew were out for the day at a school not far from town so we decided to surprise them and make an unannounced visit. The Clinic Mobil Trailer can be seen in the shot along with the kids doing calisthenics. They're laughing because I was doing the reps with them and they got a big kick out of it.
This great guy named Vy (Vee) was all about service. He arranged for our cyclos to the station, even helped us get our bags on board which was akin to an Olympic event. No lines or people queuing up just madness stampeding to the doors. With their entire families getting on board to help out and see the train. Chaos ensued and we barely made it on the train. Vy was unceremoniously beaten from the train by the conductors and man handled by the security staff on the platform. I hope all was well with him, I never saw anything like it in VietNam.
This is the view of the river from the back portico of the Century Riverside Hotel. Beautiful view of the Perfume River. The bar wasn't open but we settled for changing some money at the front desk. Hue had been rainy for the 2 days we spent there and the river was a bit high but still quite a sight. On to DaNang!
Here in front of the Hue Century Riverside Hotel Mike and I stopped to get a quick pic as a memento. This hotel is mentioned in the book "Up Country" by Nelson DeMille. We stopped in also to get a peek at the river from the back portico, also mentioned in the book. We were now headed by train to DaNang and were going to the station by Cyclo. I've always wanted to go to Hue or to DaNang via the local train as I heard it was one of the most scenic routes in VietNam. It was beautiful. I spent some time back with the porters sharing a drink with them and listening to their stories while they practiced their English on me. They were all from HaNoi and lived on the train travelling back and forth to HCMC. They served food and drinks and did genearl clean up. It was a short trip to DaNang and was well worth the time.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
As having been on this tour afew years before I didn't venture into the tunnels but stayed outside and had a Coke at the very first food stall inside the grounds. This girl wanted to practice her English skills and we chatted for a few minuets while the tour went on. She of course would like to attend University and get a good job but alas hasn't the money. She was so cute and spoke excellent English.
This is one of the national cemeteries but only if you're from the north. Wish the government would reconcile and do the same for the ARVN soldiers. After all they're all Vietnamese and in the spirit of unity it would be a good gesture. I didn't go in, and the tour guide gave me a few looks but I had seen it on a previous visit and had had enough. Was wonderfully kept and maintained though.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Not much is left of the old site, except lots of propaganda. Most people on the tours take it with a grain of salt. No sense getting upset about it. There's some plane and helicopter wreckage outside of the main building but beside that not much else. I'm still glad I visited the site. On my last trip the road was washed out and we couldn't get here. There's still lots of unexploded ordinance in this area too and with over 30,000 people killed since 1975 by leftover munitions it's a real concern. Second only to the Agent Orange problem. You can still witness the deforestation out along Hwy #9.
When I came to VietNam in 1971 one of the first things that struck me was the kilometer markers everywhere. Every 10 meters there's a small cement marker and then every 100K there's one of these markers like the one at the end of the guardrail. Sometimes painted red at the top and with the city your approaching in abbreviation, with the distance. Something out of a by-gone era, turn of the century. Along with the Beau Gueste forts at some of the small bridges the last vestiges of the French Occupation.
Here deep in the heart of Indian country or as some used to call it Arizona Territory with the infamous Rock Pile as a backdrop we braved the elements on this bus tour out on Hwy #9 that runs from Dong Ha out to the immortal Khe Sanh battle site. All during the tour we had to listen to this tour guide butcher Khe Sanh by calling it Ka Shawn and after I quietly corrected her she stiffly stated that Ka Shawn was a local pronounciation. We passed the iconic Hamburgher Hill site along the way saw some unbelievable scenery.
Here we find My friend Mike strolling the streets of SaiGon like any tourist amazed at the traffic, which on this street was minimal and getting over come by heat stroke. After hearing about VietNam for 35 years he finally had enough and decided to come with me on a visit. 2 days in HCMC sampling food and getting his bearings it was off to Hue City. I had just finished reading DeMille's "Up Country" and was hoping to show Mike some of the same terrain explored in the book. Only in the reverse order. We only had 2 weeks so it would have to be the Cliff Notes version. Without going to Ha Noi and Dien Bien Phu. I also wanted to give him a total taste of everything from in country train travel to local buses and motos.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Every hotel and business seems to have their own security guards. For a country that has very little crime I wonder why they need so much security. These two "Cowboys" were working at the Xuan Loc hotel in HCMC near the Ben Thanh Market. They were great fun and loads of laughs. They love to play and tease people rough house with each other when the boss isn't watching. Most of these guys sleep in the lobby of their hotels and stand guard over the front desk. They also hail taxi's and give directions when they can.
This is Hang, my friend who books my hotels for me and takes me around when I am in SaiGon. She is doing quite well with a better job and has an excellent command of English. She is my friend Trang's cousin. They are from Phan Thiet just 2 hours north of SaiGon Near Mui Ne. I hear now that she has a new boyfriend and is in LaLa land so to speak......good luck Hang!
Friday, August 07, 2009
This beautiful church is located on the corner of Nguyen Trai st. I forget the name of it but believe it was built by the last King of VietNam's daughter. Totally packed for mass with SRO on the steps and courtyard outside. After mass some of the people who venerate certain saints go to their respective statues and not only pray but carress them and express vivid emotion while doing so.
I stayed at this hotel for a couple of days and had a very hard time getting out of PleiKu by plane. Was sweating out having to go back by bus but as it turned out the guy at the desk here "had a friend who worked at the airport"
who could get me on a plane back to HCMC, and for no extra charge. When I showed up at the airport, incidentally it's the same airport I flew out of back in 1972, they only accept cash. So back into town I go by taxi to the bank and get some cash, then hurry back to the airport only to find the flight delayed for and hour. So goes travel in VietNam.
Ahhhh the ever present xe lam, back in the day these were everywhere. Now they're quite rare. Spare parts from Italy are hard to come by. I've spotted them in VietNam mostly in the small towns. Nostalgic for me and proabaly for most GI's to see these.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
This tank is placed in full view in the center of town lest anyone forget that the North won the American War. On my visit to Buon Ma Thuot I arrived on the same day as the "Elephant Festival". Just my luck that there was not a hotel room to be had. I ended up parking myself in the lobby of the White Horse Hotel just across the street from this display. I threw myself on the mercy of the receptionist and she did track down a place for me to stay. "Sorry it is only a 1 star" which in translation means a minus 2 star. It was a refurbished Russian military barracks out near the bus station but since it was only one night "how bad could it be?". I had a great time in this dusty little town on my way to Plei Ku by bus. The famous Amman Kahn rode his elephant down Main Street along with the fire company and various military vehicles were also on display. I felt very uncomfortable taking any pictures of the parade do to the military presence. In the other picture folks are starting to line up to get the best seats to view the parade.
This is the same stall that serves my favorite Pho Bo at the Ben Thanh market. They also make "banh cuon" I think it's called. A thin rice flour concoction wrapped around chopped nuts and a tapioca filling. Not quite as sweet as it sounds but very good non the less. These are the things I love about VietNam.