We are now in Hoi An, south of Da Nang. I (Malcolm) am at least staeting off this blog entry,how far I will get I don't know, as the letters on the keyboard are almost warn off except the X's q's z's etc and I am not a "touch" typist.
Our flight to Hue was delayed by about 3 hours,but when we got there our new guide and driver were waiting for us.We went directly to the citadel and forbidden city of the Nyguen dynasty toured there and then checked into our hotel which was by far the best so far.
The increase in temperature and humidity was very noticeable between Hanoi and Hue and it is getting more so as we move south.
In Hue we spent one day visiting the tombs of the various Nyguen emperors and another day visiting sites in and near the DMZ. Its ironic that so much of the destruction and direct conflict of the "American" war as it is called here occurred in or near the "Demilitarized" zone.
The citadel and forbiddem city in Hue was the site of some of the most bitter fighting during the "Tet offensive" though a great deal of restoration has been undertaken bullet and shell holes are still evident.
In the DMZ we visited a shot out church which was used as a stronghold by the VC. The village around it was apparently totally destroyed, but has now been rebuilt, the catholic church has been left as it was directly after the war.
We visited Khe San, Hamburger Hill, The Rock Pile and other sites that are memories from the TV news for us, much more personal to others.
Apparently over 10000 tons of bombs were for every Vietnamese person, add to that artillery, mines etc and the volume of destruction is amazing.
The destruction is not altogether a thing of the past. There are tons of unexploded bombs,mines and artillery shells still scaterred over the area and many are killed or injured each year as a result. The locals try to salvage metal from the remains, we saw scrap metal yards with hundreds of shell and bomb cases.
The war is still a personal memory to many of the people here.Our tour company "Anns Tours" was started, believe it or not by Ann. She worked for the Americans in Siagon during the war. At the end when the Americans were evacuating she managed to get her 2 sons aged 5 and 7 onto one of the last helicoptors out, there wasn't room for her.
Once Americans started coming back in the 80's she started doing tours with them, the main purpose being to elicit their help in tracing her sons. She gave them copies of family photos and asked them to get the photos and her story published in newspapers in the US. As a result, 8 years after the war she got back in touch with her sons, one of them had recognized the 7 year old child in the photo as himself. One of the sons now runs the tour company, the other still lives in the US.
Our driver "Mr Thai" is 64. He was in the south Vietnamese air force in communications. After the war he was able to minimize his role, and he was therefore only sent away for "re-education" for 3 days. He told us that the opportunities for education and jobs for ex southern military and their children was much less than for those in the North. He says it is not so bad now.
We visited a complex of VC tunnels near the coast apparently a total length of 9 KM up to 23 metres deep with meeting rooms, hospital, nurseries etc. The Americans knew they were there and repeatedly bombeb the area, the craters are still all over the area and are very evident. We went down the tunnels, can't imagine what it would of been like down there with no light and with the bombs dropping.
After Hue we went to Bac Ma national park for 2 days for birding. Bac Ma is a massive jungle covered area in the mountains, but even here the war is still evident. While walking a jungle trail with our local guide we came across a clearing. He saed et was the site were a shot down American plane had crashed.The locals had taken the ID papers of the dead crew, and over the years salvaged every scrap of everything from the plane. Allthat was evident was the clearing and small scraps of the plastic sheathing of wires.
In 1992 a team of Americans visited the cite looking to find and identify "MIA's" They were able to find some remains, and identify the crew with help from the locals, and from mission records.
There is more on the lighter side to add about our last few days, but wa will save that for our next, much less sombre next blog.
We Had 1 day in Bac Ma (should have been 2 but the accomodation was absolutely really bad, even by our standards) so we finished up with an extra day here in Hoi An where we have been now for 3 days, we fly out this afternoon to Saigon.
Will end for now and go pack. Bye for now,
Malcolm and Elinor