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Vietnam Comes to an End

We are out of Vietnam now and I know in the end we never properly explained where we went and what we did and I don’t want to dive deeply into each stop now so I’ll be brief…

After Nha Trang, we took a Vietnam Airlines flight up to Da Nang. If you’ve ever seen a movie based in American War Vietnam that I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this former Marine port city. This is where American Marines first landed in Vietnam. The story goes that the locals even came out to the beach to welcome them – the opposite of Normandy and a story I’m sure the Vietnamese government will never tell.

WE didn’t stay long in Da Nang. Instead we headed 30 clicks south to the beautiful town of Hoi An. We checked into the Hoi An Riverside Resort, clearly the nicest hotel of our stay so far, and started to unwind. I wouldn’t really call it a restort because it isn’t very big, but it is peaceful and has a nice pool and balconies overlooking the river and rice paddies across the street. We spent most afternoons on the balcony with a glass of Dalat wine (not my first choice), the cheese my parents brought and watched on as farmers tended their rice with bare hands and water buffalo. Check out our pictures for more detail.

It seems that every traveler that comes to Vietnam likes either Hoi An or Hue. Count me in the former group. We had great dinners there, I got a custom suit made, Kelly had some shorts and a dress tailored and it was all around a great place to spend a few days.

In fact, I wish we had spent more time there. Something I think of Dalat and Hanoi as well.

After Hoi An, we took the train to Hue. That was quite an experience. Vietnam trains aren’t that bad but they aren’t exactly nice either and my parents had giant 50lb suitcases with them. Not something the average Vietnamese travels with. We paid a guy $1 to help us load the train up and my parents got to experience incredibly loud Vietnamese music videos, disgusting old men picking their nose with their giant, crusty fingernails and of course the view of the China Sea through a window that hadn’t been cleaned since the late 90s.

We booked a decent hotel for Hue. The Victory Hotel we found on tripadvisor and it was exactly what we were looking for. Cheap and clean. My parents splurged on the suite ($47/night) and we even hired a tour guide and private car for a day long tour (my parents also teated us here – thanks!)

Unfortunately, the tour guide didn’t really speak English and he knew next to nothing about Hue. After an hour we fired him…or we tried to. He hung around for another hour or so promising to switch us to another tour guide and after we nagged and nagged him he finally gave up, called the hotel (who set up the tour) and yelled at them for a bit and finally jumped out of the car. The driver was a bit stunned but he was a professional and took us back to the hotel where we spent 30 minutes or so working out a compromise. In the end, we didn’t pay for the tour guide and we took the car for a few more hours. After this we really appreciated the tour guides we got through ICS and if you eve come to Vietnam and want a guide, we highly recommend them.

We flew onto Hanoi and spent the next two days touring the city with our new tour guide: Lan. She was nice, knew the city and treated us very well. She was 5 when the bombs came down on Hanoi and her father served on the other side. Even so, she was nothing but nice and happy to work with American vets. If we could have gotten her to say anything outside of the history as seen by the Vietnamese government, that would have been a plus but she was strictly by the book.

Hanoi is like a smaller Saigon with a little more French influence. There seems to be a whole cafe culture and beer garden thing going on and the whole thing is just easier to digest than Saigon. We liked it.

After a couple days of touring, we headed out to Ha Long Bay for an overnight “cruise”. Going out on 16 cabin “junk” boats, the cruise is gorgeous and you spend about half the time eating crab, shrimp, calamari and fish in the luxious dining room as the boat passes giant karst formations that jet straight up out of the water. Ha Long Bay is currently in the running to be one of the next 7 wonders of the world and it is easy to see why.

Our last night was spent back in the Hanoi Hilton. Not the one visited by John McCain but the new one next to the Opera House. We did visit the former jail and according to the current government it was just a great place for American prisoners. To hear tham tell it, they sat around playing basketball and going to mass and just having a great time. I’m sure John McCain and the other American prisoners tell quite a different story than that but this is Vietnam and they are writing the history how they want to. It is hard to stomach all of this and not speak out but as my dad says, this is their country and they have their view. Maybe one day they will call it a civil war, which is of course what it was, but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon. In the meantime, it is the American War…Good times.

And that wraps up Vietnam. We had a wonderful time with my parents and it was sad to see them go.


2 Responses

  1. Your pic of Halong Bay makes me wish I was there right now (yes, again). Safe travels!

  2. don’t tell brandon about halong bay–he might cry; we didn’t get to see it. …next time!

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