Day 6: Tram Ton Pass, Silver Waterfall

Let’s see… I’ll start with dinner. I stopped writing on the page before to go have dinner with Duc and Ty. We had a traditional meal in a local-style restaurant and Ty brought along rice wine.

From what Duc & Ty were saying, I was afraid it would be very strong. But it wasn’t. Don’t think I got much above .08 at any point during dinner. Unfortunately, Duc didn’t handle his alcohol well. And he drank far more than me. He got glassy-eyed drunk and babbled a bit. He’s got quite an ego that one.

Drinking with the Vietnamese men was interesting. We raised our tiny doll-sized shot glasses to the cheer “Joa!” and drank it off. Then we shook hands and poured another glass. The men talked and smoked and ate from a “hot pot.” I ate and listed talking and laughing when English was spoken.

Then we went out to the square where there was quite a party going on. In the center was dancing and music, on the outskirts there was a ton of street vendors—Mung—selling their handicrafts on carpets on the ground. While small children decorated in Mung tribal clothes sold/begged among the crowd. There were also 2-3 circles of people playing a game similar to hacky sack only with a shuttlecock.

I didn’t want to dance but was coaxed into it. I had fun. So many people were filming me! iPhones everywhere! I must have danced with every guy there at the same time. I was surrounded by Vietnamese men and soon everyone wanted a photo with me. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Later I went to play the hacky sack game for a bit before returning to my hotel. That game is hard!

I felt like I got to participate in a part of Vietnamese culture not many tourists get to see.

The next morning I was tired but feeling okay. Got to see a mountain view, a waterfall, and a small village where they sold handmade knives.

On the flight here I talked with a woman from Quebec who had been a nurse for almost 40 years! She seemed very interested in my book and I promised to email her when I get home. I met another friendly Vietnamese man. He told me his father was a Vietnamese soldier and he had learned a lot about the war from his parents, friends of his father, and from a few older teachers. He seemed eager to talk about the war, though he says many people aren’t. The government wants to forget it—blame it on the Americans and then not talk about it. A very different perspective than what Duc gave me. Makes sense. Central Vietnam should be a new experience.

My guide talked about that the Vietnamese soldiers were mainly farmers. So many were illiterate—hence why I can’t find much history from the Vietnamese perspective. Also, I imagine even if they could write, they don’t have freedom of speech here so what they could say would be limited.

Trying to understand communism is hard for me. I just can’t get my brain around this form of government. I really can’t. I’m starting to understand the American perspective early in the war though. I can see why American men felt willing to die to stop communism from spreading like a plague across Indo-china. I can see the reason for the anger toward protesters back home who didn’t seem to understand the threat to freedom communism poses. Many supported it. For American soldiers, communist sympathizers, socialists, and “hippies” represented a real threat to world freedom. What the war de-escalated into is a tragedy, but not surprising in a protracted war. I feel our cause was just, our politicians lost the war, and then we kept fighting, drafting protestors, and watering down our fighting force until what we had was “the Vietnam War.”

This war shouldn’t have gone the way it did. It ended up being a clusterfuck when it should have been an operation like Desert Storm. LBJ, McNamara, and Nixon—I have no words…