Heading South in Vietnam by Baz
Our St Patricks day didn't turn out quite as dull as expected. We enjoyed a couple of beers in our Hotel as we waited for our overnight bus. Then the hotel owners pulled out a bottle of Rice Wine. We were warned in our guide book about this poteen-like substance, which can make you go blind. Well, I wasn't going to let a bit of blindness put me off so I accepted the invitation for a few glasses. It was a remarkably smooth drink despite its obvious alcoholic strength. After sipping down 3 shots I became aware of the locals watching me with eager grins on their faces, perhaps wondering at what stage I would keel over. Fortunately the bus arrived saving me from embarrassment and Seonaid from having to carry me onto it.
On the bus I spent the whole night listening to Irish artists on my iPod - Christy Moore, The Chieftains, Damian Dempsy and Altan all got a playing and with the Rice Wine in my system I could barely contain the urge to sing.
We arrived in Hue early morning and things had started to improve in Vietnam. Hue is a nice spot, slower pace and a bit more relaxed that what we had endured up north. We were very excited about taking a tour to the DeMilitarized Zone (a no-mans land and the front line during the Vietnam American War), and the Viet Cong tunnels. We were not disappointed - it was a fantastic experience. We visited the American base first, the Khe Sanh Combat Base. It was on top of a hill and overlooked the DMZ. There were tanks and helicopters still on the site and all sorts of memorabilia in the museum, guns and equipment and very graphic photos. The Americans left the base in a hurry after a sustained attacks from the VC.
Next was the Vinh Moc tunnels. They were built to protect the people from the constant bombing of their villages in the DMZ. They were dark and cramped, I had to stoop down to walk through, and after 25 minutes I was delighted to be out. I can only imagine what it was like for people to live down there for 6 years. The complex grew to include wells, meeting rooms, kitchens, spaces for each family and healthcare facilities. Around 60 families lived in the tunnels and about 17 children were born there.
We then moved further South to Hoi An where we were pleased to meet our Lithuanian friends Rytis and Catrina. Another overnight bus this evening, but the day will go quickly as we are both working on job applications for our imminent return to normal life.