VIETNAM: The Final Sweep Down The Coast

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Dong Hoi

DSC02186

Sun Spa Resort – Dong Hoi

My coastal journey begins in Dong Hoi at the Sun Spa Resort where the Son Doong Expedition found some much needed R&R. A pool, spa, a comfortable bed, and some western food were most welcome I can tell you. I booked an extra night just to make sure I was rested for the rest of my journey down the coast which will include Quang Tri, Hue, Hoi An, Quy Nhon, and Nha Trang. Two nights will be spent in the highlands of Dalat before finishing up in Ho Chi Minh City.

DSC02220

QUANG TRI PROVINCE – Not much to be said for Quang Tri except that my four-star hotel was super cozy and stylish, and had good internet to get caught up with things. At half the cost of most Motel 6 rooms, I was very pleased. Not many restaurants nearby either so I resorted to room service a couple of times. I did take the opportunity to do the DMZ Tour which was something I wanted to do, and it spared me having to use up my time in Hue doing it.

DSC02189

The Rockpile – Vietnam War U.S. Observation Post

The Rockpile rises 700 feet above the surrounding terrain, and was accessible only by helicopter and used as an observation post during the Vietnam War from 1966-1969. Located just South of the DMZ, it was also used as an artillery base.

DSC02195

Khe Sahn Combat Base – Museum

I found the museum disturbing as the propaganda found within insinuated rather clearly that our troops were cowards during the shelling of the base during the Battle of Khe Sahn. I can handle it when they build up their own troops or decry the use of Agent Orange, but questioning the courage of our troops I found to be disrespectful of the men who lost their lives there.

DSC02196

Lasting 77 days, the Battle of Khe Sahn claimed 703 American and South Vietnamese lives with 10,000 to 15,000 Viet Cong killed. The base was abandoned and destroyed two months after the conflict ended.

DSC02203

Vinh Môc Tunnels – DMZ

Vinh Môc is a tunnel complex located in Quang Tri province. The U.S. Military believed that the villagers of Vinh Môc were supplying food and armaments to the North Vietnamese. Bombing campaigns designed to force the people to move elsewhere forced them underground instead. The tunnels were constructed using simple farming tools, and were originally dug to 10 meters. Then the U.S. forces developed bombs that would go to 10 meters so the villagers dug to thirty meters. It was built in several stages from 1966 and utilized until 1972. About sixty families lived in the tunnels, and as many as seventeen children were born there. They were an incredible success since there were no casualties. There was only one direct hit, but the bomb failed to explode. The hole it made was eventually used as a ventilation shaft.

DSC02210

 

DSC02206

 Family Rooms – On Sides Of Hallway

DSC02218

Cemetery Of 3,000 Unmarked Graves – 1/1000 of Total Killed In The War

Hue

DSC02234

 Hue – A Sculpture Park Along The Perfume River

DSC02236

 

DSC02266

 Thien Mu Pagoda – Hue

Built in 1601 by the order of the first Nguyen lords, this is the tallest religious building in Vietnam.

DSC02269

 

DSC02277

 

DSC02281

The Car Used By Thich Quang Duc Before Immolating Himself In Saigon In 1963

Who can forget the image of the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire at a Saigon intersection in 1963 to protest the persecution of Buddhists under South Vietnam’s Diem regime? John Kennedy said, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”  This iconic vehicle that he drove to Saigon that fateful day is on display at the Thien Mu Pagoda. It is said that as he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure was in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.

DSC02254

 The Citadel

 

DSC02247

 One Of The Many Moats Around The Citadel

DSC02252

 

DSC02293

DSC02327

 

DSC02314

 

DSC02335

 

DSC02340

 

DSC02356

DSC02305

 

DSC02306

 

DSC02311

 

DSC02359

 

DSC02287

 Les Jardins de la Carambole – My Favorite Restaurant in Vietnam

Also very close to the Citadel, it is an ideal place to stop for lunch after touring the grounds for three hours or so. Owned by a Frenchman, this beautifully restored French Colonial edifice produces food as pleasing as its environment. If you’re in need of a good steak, their beef tenderloin in mushroom sauce can’t be beat.

Tu Doc Tomb

DSC02381

This tomb constructed between 1864 and 1867 is one of the most popular and beautiful of the royal mausoleums. Tu Duc’s tomb is not only one of the most beautiful works of the Nguyen dynasty, but it is also a collection of romantic vistas.

DSC02382

 

DSC02383

 

DSC02388

 

DSC02393

 

DSC02402

 

DSC02403

 Khai Dinh Tomb

DSC02426

 

 

DSC02428

 

DSC02429

 

DSC02432

 

DSC02434

 

DSC02439

Minh Mang Tomb

DSC02438

 

DSC02442

 

DSC02446

 

DSC02447

 

DSC02453

 

DSC02456

 

DSC02469

 

DSC02473

 Bunkers From The Vietnam War

DSC02476

 Bullet Holes

DSC02475

 

DSC02481

DSC02491

 

DSC02498

 

DSC02500

 

DSC02502

 

DSC02504

 

DSC02510

 

DSC02524

 

 

Hoi An

DSC02526

 

DSC02527

 

DSC02543

 

DSC02539

 

DSC02541

 

DSC02545

 

DSC02546

 

DSC02547

 

DSC02548

 

DSC02552

 

DSC02560

The Japanese Bridge – Early 1600’s

DSC02563

 

DSC02561

 

DSC02585

 

DSC02599

 

DSC02600

 

DSC02602

 

DSC02603

Amazing French Pastry

DSC02609

 

DSC02615

 

DSC02624

 

DSC02628

 

DSC02635

 

DSC02636

A Special Free Meal From Our Hosts

 

 

Qui Nhon

DSC02638

 

DSC02641

 

DSC02643

 Thap Doi – Twin Towers

DSC02644

 

DSC02648

          Nhon Hoi Bridge – Longest Bridge In Vietnam

DSC02652

 

DSC02665

 

DSC02664

 

DSC02670

 

DSC02679

          FISHING VILLAGE – NORTH 0F QUI NHON

DSC02682

DSC02689

 

DSC02691

 

DSC02692

 

DSC02693

 

DSC02697

 

DSC02696

 

DSC02705

 

DSC02704

 

DSC02709

 

DSC02712

 

DSC02714

 

DSC02715

 

DSC02716

 

DSC02687

 

DSC02719

 

DSC02723

 

DSC02724

Now after an eight-hour sleeper bus ride from Dalat, I’m back in Ho Chi Minh City where it all began. A lot wiser for my experiences so I needn’t worry about being caught unaware by a taxi looking to take me for a ride. So now I find myself with a moment to evaluate and reflect on my experiences in Vietnam.

I have read a number of blogs and comments by people who have visited, and they tend to fall into two camps. People who love Vietnam and people who hate Vietnam. I have had a tendency in the past to get very black and white about things, but when it comes to Vietnam it’s more complicated than that. There are things I dislike intensely about Vietnam, and there are things that I love about Vietnam. Like Nomadic Matt, who can’t get past the utter disrespect he experienced when dealing with unscrupulous people, I almost let the experiences cloud my opinion of the country. At one point I almost reached critical mass, but every time there were people or acts of kindness that kept me from falling into the I hate Vietnam category. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Strangely enough, upon my return to Saigon, I have encountered no issues with being ripped off or even taxi cab dishonesty which is rampant in Ho Chi Minh City. It is such a problem that my hotel has about 500 words dedicated to it on the flip side of the city map they hand out. In fact, when visiting Saigon or Hanoi, your hotel desk staff is your best defense against problems you might encounter. They can give you proper fares for specific taxi rides, and appropriate prices for souvenirs and street food.

I think a lot of the problem stems from the war, and old wounds that haven’t healed. The Vietnamese lost 3,000,000 people not to mention the wounded and countless people affected by agent orange and unexploded bombs. The young people are less inclined to negative behaviors toward tourists, and I think that can certainly be attributed to being born long after the war and its lingering effects. Getting scraped for the odd dollar here and there is not a big deal. It’s when people want to charge you 3-5 times what something is worth and then try to short change you in the same transaction. This is when things get ugly. Unfortunately, there are many people who have no problem behaving this way even going to point of making fun of you to their friends while they are taking advantage of you.

The good news is that this sort of behavior tends to be centered around the big cities or major tourist areas. Get out into the county in places featured in my blog like Sapa, Phong Nha, and Dalat, and this sort of thing is virtually nonexistent. I am grateful to have seen the country from so many different angles. Vietnam has been through a lot through the years and is very much a work in progress. Trash is a major problem in Vietnam, but even the ubiquitous rubbish is being addressed in a few areas like Phong Nha Ke Bang national park, Nha Trang Beach, and areas of downtown Dalat which are kept spotless. I can only see this trend increasing as the government becomes aware that a beautiful Vietnam attracts more tourist dollars. I expect in time they will crack down on the dishonest taxi drivers as well. Everywhere I went on my way down the coast there was an amazing amount of building and public works projects going on in common areas. I can’t imagine the government investing all of this money to have it squandered by litter and an unscrupulous citizenry.

So, by all means, visit Vietnam, but go with your eyes open and prepared for the issues I have mentioned. Just don’t take any of it personally, ask for the price up front, and be prepared to walk away from someone trying to overcharge you or rip you off.

 

8 Comments

  1. Jason B.
    March 23, 2015

    John, Hope to see you in April. If you can find the time would like to have you over for dinner at our new place in la costa. Let us know my friend. Still finding more cool stuff on your site. Love reading your insights. Jason.

  2. The Travel Zealot
    March 23, 2015

    Hey Jason,
    Got some fresh photos on this thread. I’ll see you when I get back in town.

  3. Z
    March 31, 2015

    BigZ, thank you for posting detailed analysis. We can’t always love 100% every place we go. Probably it is part of the whole traveling adventure to react and feel differently in different places. I do agree that once you stray from the mainstream you usually have really amazing experiences. It looks like you had many..

  4. The Travel Zealot
    March 31, 2015

    Z,
    I will be adding more analysis as well as additional photos and commentary to that final Vietnam thread as soon as I can get to it. That might have to wait until I return to San Diego for a pit stop on April 10th. before heading off to Europe on the 22nd. This is due to the fact that the island in Malaysia I am going to scuba dive for the next week probably doesn’t have wi-fi.

  5. Karen Devers
    April 26, 2015

    Hey, John,

    Incredibly beautiful photos. I very much appreciate your thoughtful reflection on your experience in Vietnam. I actually have the same conflicted feelings about the US, as we have talked about.

    When you get back to the US next time let me know. It would be fun to get together and chat.

    You are probably on your way to your diving adventure now. I’m hoping you have an underwater camera!

    Have a great time!

    Karen

  6. The Travel Zealot
    May 2, 2015

    Unfortunately my computer had issues, and I couldn’t get the last of my Vietnam shots on the Blog so we missed out on Nha Trang and Dalat. I’m currently in Bordeaux, another great French city. The diving in Malaysia was great, but I got a nasty fungal infection in my ears. Definitely would like to touch base at some point. Never been to Oregon.

  7. Greg Knyper
    May 2, 2015

    Hi Johnny!
    I’m moved by your pictures and your experiences! I’m happy for you brother! Hope to see some dive photos. I had no idea you wrote so fluently and I am hooked on reading your work! Love it! Be safe and I will follow your travels!

    Best to you,
    Greg

  8. The Travel Zealot
    May 5, 2015

    Hi Greg,
    I’m traveling light so I left my Go Pro at home so there won’t be any dive pictures right now. Man did I get a terrible fungal ear infection when I left Malaysia. I will never dive without my swim ear again!!! I was on an island near Sipadan. It was turtle city with amazing hordes of schooling fish. I got in the middle of about 600 jacks, awesome!

Leave a Reply