A Facebook friend commented that she loved Vietnam. Unfortunately, I can’t ask her what specifically she loved about Vietnam because we are again in a country that doesn’t allow Facebook. This country takes some of its culture from China: we’re back to eating our food with chopsticks and some of the dishes are very similar. I like Vietnam but I guess the noise is dampening my enthusiasm a little. We had grown accustomed to the quieter nature of Laos. Buses and trucks have the same loud horns here as they do in China, though perhaps with a little more variety and expression. The traffic is enough to freeze you in your tracks. Bob nearly got run down twice trying to cross one street.
We’re adapting though and learning to find alternates to Highway 1A that are a little quieter: the route over Hai Van Pass avoided the 10 kilometer tunnel and offered nice views in spite of the weather.
Bob: I am of the Vietnam generation. A bleeding ulcer (real) and arthritis (really just gout) kept me from coming here under different circumstances. I was young and patriotic, if conflicted about the war, and would have served if drafted, but didn’t have that choice. Over the years my survivors guilt has grown, as I have met so many veterans damaged mentally, if not physically, by their experience in Vietnam. On our first long tour, around the U.S. we met (camped with often) many Vietnam vets who were homeless. There are still many homeless vets from the American War, as they call it here.
It’s odd to be here on China Beach, where so many of vets came for R&R. If you plan to return, be aware that the Chinese have bought up most of the land facing the beach, and planning huge high-rise developments, quite different from the mid sized hotels here now, which are probably themselves post war. I’m sure it’s very tame compared to those days. I’d love to see comments from you about your experiences on China Beach.
For cyclists: I think the Vietnam experience, along the coast, has probably been changed negatively forever by too much exposure to foreign cyclists, mostly on supported tours. Almost every international cycle touring company lists the coast of Vietnam tour. The sheer numbers on busy 1A has led to a certain disdain, and worse, sense of entitlement in the people, particularly the children. For the first time in our 40,000 miles of touring, we have heard, “money, money, money,” on our passing, and outstretched hands from children chanting, “dollar, dollar!” Coming from Laos, where the children were so delightful, this has been hard to take. My advice, go somewhere perhaps more challenging, but where your money is more needed, and you will be welcomed for your person, not your money. If you want to come to Vietnam, spend most of your time in the mountains, where the hill people are more like the Lao.