I hesitated to travel to Vietnam, since I had a bad conscience due to my country’s invasion of the country, the approx. one million Vietnamese and approx. 50,000 US soldiers who died as result (for what?), the use of chemicals such as Agent Orange and Napalm, which cause untold health problems for the population and damage to the environment. The American soldier who was convicted of mass murder during the My Lai massacre was released after a few years in prison, Senator John McCain, whose plane was shot down over Vietnam when he was most likely bombing villages and/or Napalm, was still revered as “war hero” in the States (how many people did he kill or maim?), and Henry Kissinger was (and is) still enjoying acclaim despite his conducting illegal invasions from Vietnam and untold misery in Laos and Cambodia (cf. the excellent book Side-Show: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia by William Shawcross). He recently visited Germany, and top-ranking Social Democrats were fawning over him like star-struck groupies meeting their rock star idol.
Could I travel to Vietnam as a tourist and just enjoy it? Would I meet with unbridled hostility and hate due to my country’s aggression? This was despite my years of protesting the war and returning my draft card to state that I would not accept induction into the military and would go to prison if necessary, although if might have been a better alternative to go to Europe and request asylum. However, the lottery was introduced before I finished the university and then the draft abolished thanks to our generation’s opposition to the war. In the end, I decided to go and – if the occasion arose — apologize for what I had been unable to prevent. However, few Vietnamese seemed interested in such, and even two people told me that their favorite film was “Rambo”, which —although I have never seen it — is racist in its depiction of an American white male far superior to any Vietnamese. Young people had little memory of the American-Vietnamese War, but they did remember the Chinese-Vietnamese War from 1979. Vietnam and China have been on a bad footing for 1,000 years.
We flew to Hanoi, which was in the midst of great changes and on the verge of developing its economy. Motorcycles and bicycles dominated the cityscape, and many enterprising families opened sidewalk restaurants.
Traditional music performance
Excursion around Hanoi
Toilet: a pig waiting for delicacies in the outhouse
Thien Tru (Heaven Kitchen) Pagoda
Huong Trich Cave is in the center of pagoda complex and has many Buddhist statues as well as temple.
Overnight train to Sa Pa at 1,650 meters altitude. The French used it as a resort to escape the heat in the summer. There are many ethnic minority groups in the area, e.g., Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tày.
Sa Pa Love Market: Saturday nights
Red Dao courtship ritual: young men searching for a partner.
On the way to Halong Bay
Halong Bay translates as “descending dragon” and contains approx. 2,000 small islands.
Our daughter was aghast at the result and started crying; the hairdresser was very upset that her work produced such an effect.
Another sleeper car on a train to Hue
Pavilion of Famous Souls
The Tombs of the Emperors: Tomb of Tu Duc
On the road
Minh Mang Royal Tomb
Hoi An was a trading port used by various nationalities, but the Chinese influence seems to be the greatest now followed by Japanese. The buildings in the city are very well preserved and bring back images of long ago.
A traditional home
Marble Mountain with its Hindu and Buddhist grottos
Excursion to My Son Sanctuary with its Hindu temples from 4th to 14th century.
Next to Nha Trang on the coast for a few days of swimming and a boat tour.
It was rather difficult to get transport south from here. We reserved a taxi, but when we got to the meeting place, another guy had also reserved it. Luckily since we were three people and made the reservation first, we got the ride.
Phan Thiet and its picturesque harbor. We stayed nearby at a bungalow at the beach to relax.
Saigon, now officially Ho Chi Minh City although locals did not seem to use the new name. It appeared a lot richer and more developed than Hanoi.
Trip to the Mekong Delta
Inspecting ingredient for dinner
I refused to touch the thing
Back in Saigon
Last meal at a great sidewalk restaurant
Shortly after we arrived home, Mechtild developed a terrible headache. The university hospital here was not able to diagnose the problem when we went to emergency outpatient clinic, but a doctor specializing in tropical medicine diagnosed dengue fever the next day.