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Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh - so much capitalism in a state that waged war to be communist

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

The Americans waged war for a decade to keep Vietnam out of the hands of the communists, losing more than 58,000 young lives in the process.

As my friend Jan, a former US army officer who is on this cruise, says, if they had known the country would eventually become the capitalist state under communist rule that it is today, they would not have bothered.

Yes, it is a one-party government. No, there is no press freedom and one does not speak out against the political masters (who must be atheist). And yes, the government owns a lot of the turf - though locals can certainly buy their own houses and worship their own gods.

But private enterprise is flourishing in this Vietnam where we stopped at three ports, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and someplace close to Ho Chi Minh City.

There are, of course, the big factories and businesses. But every street is lined with small mom-and-pop stores selling everything from tires to baby clothes to lichee fruit.

The only other time I was in Vietnam, I was briefly kidnapped by a bad guy who took me to an industrial district and threatened to kill me unless gave him all my money and a kiss. He got my $40 and a peck on the cheek, and I got away with my life.

This trip held no such adventure. But it was pretty cool nonetheless.

At Da Nang, Josie, Virginia, and I opted to go to the ancient town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a bustling warren of shops, restaurants, and points of interest including this temple built by the Japanese.

And this 400-year-old covered bridge.

Every street was lined with color. Like these lanterns.

And we went to a silk shop where we saw the entire process from the breeding of the silk worms to the harvesting of the thread, to the weaving. I bought an embroidered picture of a flower and also had a blouse made to order - it was done in the three hours we spent in Hoi An. This is me in the blouse and a had pendant which I bought at another store.

Then we stopped into the tiny Muot Cafe where we were entertained by the owner, Do, and had a delicious lunch of noodle soup, spring rolls and beer (two each). Total price for three of us was $17.

The next day in Nha Trang, I took a ship excursion and sat with Irish John.

Our first stop was a 1300-year-old Bhuddist temple built on what is know as Elephant Mountain. They did not have mortar when it was first constructed, so it was put together with tree sap.

It is still used as a place of worship.

Next we took a short cruise down a local river. The thing that really struck me was the garbage along the bank. I always wondered why there is so much plastic in the ocean. Vietnam is clearly a source. But the shoreline gave insight into how people here live.

We had fruit for lunch and then got taken to a private home to see how the Vietnamese worship their ancestors. This house was more that 100 years old and, like many houses, it has a separate wing where departed family members are honoured. This is our guide who said his nickname is Happy Guy, describing the traditions.

Final stop was a local temple which is primarily used for ceremonies held every full moon.

On the third day, we look the long drive into Ho Chi Minh City where we were given a tour of the former presidential palace which served as a command centre during the war. It has been preserved largely as it was when the South surrendered in 1975.

This was a presidential meeting room.

Hi

This was a map of operations in the basement bunker.

We stopped at a market where we paid way too much for coffee - Vietnam is apparently the world's second largest coffee producer.

Then we were taken to a downtown hotel for a buffet lunch.

And we wrapped up the day with another Bhuddist temple.

The food that is left for the Bhuddas and the departed ancestors is apparently distributed to the local poor after it has sat at the statues' feet for the required length of time.

If you were dropped here from space, you would assume this country was inhabited by a munchkin race because all of the outdoor furniture is child-sized plastic. But it is what adults sit in to enjoy time with friends and sell their wares.

Now we are off to Thailand for two days and then Singapore.



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1 Comment


crhtyson
crhtyson
Apr 04, 2023

I am enjoying your journals very much. What an amazing adventure. Mar 29 was the 50th anniversary of the US military withdrawal from Vietnam. (We were mere teens at AHS). How interesting that you were there around that anniversary.

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