Uncornered Market » vietnam-war http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Fri, 12 Sep 2014 12:46:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The American Warhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/american-war/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/american-war/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2007 15:56:56 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2007/02/american-war/ By Daniel Noll

Given our nationality and the fact that the Vietnam War ended just over 30 years ago, we were surprised that Vietnamese people showed us no animosity or resentment. In fact, when we told people that we were from America, they very often smiled – and genuinely so. We’d score even more points when we mentioned […]

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By Daniel Noll

Given our nationality and the fact that the Vietnam War ended just over 30 years ago, we were surprised that Vietnamese people showed us no animosity or resentment. In fact, when we told people that we were from America, they very often smiled – and genuinely so. We’d score even more points when we mentioned that we used to live in California, home to a large Vietnamese community. Cynics would argue that the Vietnamese are shrewd businesspeople, but we’re certain that our treatment wasn’t all about business.

American Tank - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
American Tank Destroyed in 1970 – Saigon, Vietnam

The American War or Vietnam War?

It’s all about perspectives. The Vietnamese call it the American War. We felt the presence of its history more in the central and southern parts of Vietnam than in the north. Remnants of American military bases and battle sites are still visible in places like China Beach, outside of Danang. Victims of land mines and those affected by agent orange walk the streets. Tourists sites remark about unexploded bombs that still mar parts of the interior Vietnamese landscape. Southern Vietnamese seemed more open, or perhaps able, to talk about the war and the division that occurred within their country. As you move south in Vietnam, you’ll also find more people whose relatives escaped as “boat people” through airlifts to the United States in the mid-1970s.

Although not as pleasant as exploring food markets and new neighborhoods, we spent two mornings at war-related sites to see the Vietnamese perspective on the War. We left with a greater understanding of how hellish it must have been for all involved. And we still can’t tell you exactly why it started or why it lasted so long.

War Remnants Museum

US military planes and tanks adorn the garden of the War Remnants Museum in HCMC. The exhibits here offer a sobering look (and albeit lopsided one…victors write the history books and build the museums) into the horrors and aftermath of the Vietnam War, from the immediate loss of life (estimated at 4 million) to the effects still felt today of chemicals like Agent Orange that were used during the War. The photos inside the exhibit are sad, ghastly and numerous. The point about the insanity of war is well made. We’ve visited various genocide, war, and oppression sites around the world and this one left us particularly devastated. Unless you don’t have a pulse, you can’t help but feel a bit discouraged about humanity and what people, regardless of their stripe, can manage to do to one another in the name of war.

War Remnants Museum - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
War Remnants Museum – Saigon, Vietnam

Cu Chi Tunnels

Located about 40 kilometers outside of Saigon, the Cu Chi region was the site of a 200-kilometer network of tunnels. These tunnels provided a way for people to navigate the area without being seen and to live underground. Tunnels were complete with kitchens, bunkers, factories, and clinics. The persistence and ingenuity of the fighters was impressive, particularly as they scavenged metal from downed aircraft to create medical equipment and build booby traps.

Our tour began with a North Vietnamese propaganda film praising the courage of the Cu Chi fighters. It was another example where we learned more from what was *not* said.

Cu Chi Tunnels - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
An Entry Point into the Cu Chi Tunnels – HCMC

The hole seen here is an example of a hidden entrance to the tunnels. Someone could drop down into the tunnel system to disappear or pop up above ground to lay a trap and then disappear again. If you compare the size of the hole compared to the shoes, this shows how small the entrances were. Even though a section of the tunnels was widened to enable tourists to crawl through, the tunnel was still barely navigable and prompted almost instant claustrophobia.

We can’t imagine what it must have been like to live in the tunnels, sometimes for days on end, during heavy bombing. Of the 16,000 original Cu Chi residents, only 4,000 remained at the conclusion of the war.

When you’re finished with these sites, head to someplace pleasant and happy – like a soup stall – and marvel at the fact that we can somehow happily co-exist, even after our countries’ governments pointed guns at one another just over three decades ago.

Arranging a Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

  • Cu Chi Tunnels: Although tours can be irritating and include bathroom stops conveniently located at handicraft shops, the easiest and cheapest way to view the tunnels is by booking a tour in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Basic tours cost around $4/person and include transportation and a guide for the tunnels. Entrance fees to the tunnels are additional.
  • War Remnants Museum: 28 Vo Van Tan, Q3, Ho Chi Minh City

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Talkative Tailors in Hoi An, Vietnamhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/talkative-tailors/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/talkative-tailors/#comments Sat, 10 Feb 2007 13:36:03 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2007/02/talkative-tailors/ By Daniel Noll

Our forays into the tailor shops in Hoi An left us with more than just extra (or superfluous) clothing for our wardrobe. Even when a business deal was clearly not involved, we found that shop owners were often open to sharing their lives and their opinions with us. These unprotected moments provided us with insight […]

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By Daniel Noll

Our forays into the tailor shops in Hoi An left us with more than just extra (or superfluous) clothing for our wardrobe. Even when a business deal was clearly not involved, we found that shop owners were often open to sharing their lives and their opinions with us. These unprotected moments provided us with insight into Vietnam’s diversity, the legacy of the Vietnam War (or, “American War”, as it’s called here), and opinions on the impact of Vietnam’s breakneck speed development is having on Vietnamese tradition and culture.

After placing an order with a tailor one evening, we got caught up in a conversation with a bright, talkative woman in her mid-twenties. We chatted for what seemed like hours and stayed long past closing time.

Vietnamese Stereotypes

She tells us that northern Vietnamese are very close to their families, but not very open and sometimes two-faced to others. The southern Vietnamese are warm and speak from the heart. The central Vietnamese on the coast live in fear of typhoons and strong storms – they live for the moment and are open and friendly. The central Vietnamese who live behind the security of the mountains, like in Hue, are smooth talkers, but are not genuine. As in all countries, stereotypes and prejudices characterize people from different regions. We can’t affirm or deny any of this, as we spent little over a month throughout Vietnam. But it was fascinating to hear. Not that this is any surprise, but suspicions and stereotypes – like ethnic jokes – begin to take on a very familiar ring.

A Personal Story

Prejudices aside, this woman’s personal story was representative of many in Hoi An. Her family has owned the merchant house in which her family lives and runs a business for eight generations. She’s of Chinese descent, but identifies herself clearly and proudly as Vietnamese. In a complicated twist of family trees and politics, she tells us that her father worked with the American forces during the war, even though his father was a strong supporter of the Viet Cong. Thirty years later, the father still has a black mark against his name, and as a result, her older brothers and sisters were not able to finish their schooling because of this. For her, things continually improve and time seems to slowly heal old wounds, but certain fields of study and work in the government are both closed to her. She hopes and expects that the black mark may disappear from her family’s record in time for the next generation, her children, to openly pursue what they desire.

Ladies of B'Lan - Hoi An, Vietnam
Dan with the family of tailors in Hoi An, Vietnam

She disagrees with the government’s approach of punishing children for the “sins” of the parents, believing that each generation should be responsible for themselves and not the actions of previous generations. Asking how the Vietnamese feel about the war and Americans, she explains that current generations don’t blame Americans today for the bombings and the war of the past.

She concludes, “Today and tomorrow are enough.” In conflicted eras and eras of conflict, these are admirable words to live by. And if their reactions to us as Americans are any indication, the Vietnamese for the most part – from North to South – certainly appear to live by it.

More Photos from Hoi An and Central Vietnam

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A Story at My Son, Vietnamhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/story-my-son/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/story-my-son/#respond Sat, 10 Feb 2007 12:25:41 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2007/05/a-story-at-my-son/ By Audrey Scott

We hired a car to take us at 5:30 AM from Hoi An to the Hindu temple complex of My Son, about an hour’s drive away. We arrived in such good time that the ticket office had yet to open and used our available time to share a coffee with our driver as we waited […]

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By Audrey Scott

We hired a car to take us at 5:30 AM from Hoi An to the Hindu temple complex of My Son, about an hour’s drive away. We arrived in such good time that the ticket office had yet to open and used our available time to share a coffee with our driver as we waited for the ticket office to open.

Our Driver’s Story

His personal story included a father who was a cook for the South Vietnamese government and was subsequently killed by North Vietnamese forces after the fall of Saigon. His mother was left with five children. Because of his father’s alliance with the government of South Vietnam, the family were exiled to a remote mountain area. Agriculture was difficult in the mountains and his family lived on one meal a day for many years.

Sunrise at My Son Temples (Vietnam) - My Son, Vietnam
Sunrise at My Son Temples, Vietnam

About a decade ago, he was able to move to Hoi An and found work as a driver. He had lived a difficult life, but was not resentful and had a wonderful, genuine smile. He was thankful to have a job and was focused squarely on the present and the future.

My Son Temples

We had decided to extract ourselves from bed at this ungodly hour to see the temples in good light and, more importantly, to avoid the bus loads of tourists who arrive mid-morning. “Beat the rush” feats such as this are becoming more and more difficult as everyone begins to adopt the same strategy. Eventually, we will all be getting up yesterday to enjoy today. At any rate, to our great surprise, we succeeded. So much so, that we were in fact the very first to show up at the gate, with only one other couple just behind.

As the gates of My Son opened, we had the temples to ourselves in a perfectly quiet morning shrouded in fog. Early morning extraction was worth it.

My Son Temples at Sunrise - Hoi An, Vietnam
My Son Temples at Sunrise – Hoi An, Vietnam

My Son is the main surviving architectural complex of the Champa dynasty; its oldest structures are believed to date back to the 4th century and the site was used until the 15th century. Parts of the temple complex were destroyed during the Vietnam War when the Viet Cong used the area as a base and American forces bombed it.

Photo Essay: Central Vietnam

 

Arranging Transport to My Son, Vietnam

My Son can be easily reached from Danang or Hoi An. Arrange for a driver to take you ($15-$20 from Hoi An) or join a minibus tour ($5-$8/person) where “authentic” musicians and dancers will greet you at the temples.

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