Ho Chi Minh City currently has a population of 6 million people…. There are only several war sites which are available for touring… Although some of the French architecture remains, most G.I.’s who went into Saigon for R&R during the Vietnam War would not recognize the modernized city.
I have a number of friends that have served in the Vietnam or “American” War. Some have made inquiries or requests that I visit places where they served during the conflict. With a limited amount of time, I attempted to honor all their requests, but the truth of the matter is that in the month I was bicycling in Vietnam, the reminders of the “War” only surfaced in several locations. A majority of the Vietnamese population is under the age of 30! Average life expectancy is 66 years old….. For most Vietnamese, the “American War” is not in their memory.
While not a complete “war tour”, I was able to see some of the history from this time period. This section is dedicated to my friend Paul Ebaugh III who served in Vietnam in 1968-69, and passed away on January 19th, 2016.
When we arrived at the former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) we arranged for a tour of the Vinh Moc Tunnels…. These tunnels housed from 300-500 people over a period of years! They had a hospital, school, nursery, family areas, a water well and entertainment spaces… ALL UNDERGROUND! There were 3 levels, with the deepest being 35 meters below ground (100 feet!) All of these tunnels were carved out of clay, which was sticky and slightly damp and VERY DARK! (the tunnels were lit during this period with oil lamps)
This was how the Vietnamese used the bicycle during the war and still use it Today!
The DMZ or Demilitarized Zone was the next thing on our list! Our interpreter Mr. Hoa used his first hand knowledge of the area to show us around. He was a teenager when the first U.S. Marines came to Vietnam, and was conscripted into the South Vietnamese Army before the end of the war. Most of our DMZ Tour was along highway number 9. The string of bases is shown below:
It is HOT in Vietnam!! It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to ride after 11:00 a.m. The temps were always above 100 and most days 110-115 degrees! We weren’t the only ones resting…. Most Vietnamese rest during the middle of the day…
After several attempts to practice before I left, I realized that the Vietnamese language isn’t ONE language, but MANY!!! There are 53 different ethnic groups in Vietnam, and they all speak “Vietnamese” a little differently…. One word said with a different tone can have an entirely different meaning…. Still, I TRIED!
There are certain things which amazed me as I was traveling through Vietnam. Here are two examples……
In case you find yourself on Highway One and you are not hungry…. There are many other items that might interest you!
Or perhaps something decorative for your Lawn or Garden?
The Cham Towers were built around 781-1000 A.D. They were designed as a place of worship for an ancient civilization that once ruled the area that we know as Vietnam today. I knew they existed, but was surprised to see them pop up in places along Highway 1 as we made our way south…..