Monday, 4/29/14 to 4/30/14, Hue
We traveled from Da Nang to Hue on April 29th. On the way we visited a marble factory located at the foot of a marble mountain. Exquisite pieces. USA and Australia are their top customers. Upon arrival I took a break, however the group including Marvin, visited Vietnam’s Imperial City where there was more history and ruins of temples, libraries, emperors and a 5 course dinner. Pictures of what I missed were informative. Still, I was happy for my brief respite.
The next day was a day of more tombs. Frankly, I’m ‘tombed out’, so here are some personal thoughts and feelings from the day.
Communism Viet Style: On the bus ride, we'd learned some interesting info.
Here are a few bullets summarizing/paraphrasing the discussion:
• Books sent are unpacked and read and sometimes not delivered.
• You can lease the land but you cannot own it. You can build on it and own the assets that you put on
the land. Government can take the land back and will reimburse you for your property.
• Ho Chi Min (Uncle Ho as he is endearingly called) did not advocate the kind of communism practiced
today in Vietnam. As a younger man, he traveled the world on freighters, etc., found Russian
communism and believed adopting its principles would be the way to unite his country against the
French Imperialists. He likely would not be happy with components of the system today.
• “Free” health care? Not actually. A mom lay in hospital for a month with no care. The son secretly took her to another doctor for diagnosis, brought her back to first hospital, asked them to look at her back (bone
TB) and see if they could find a problem. They did find the problem and began to treat her for a large
cash payment. Only meds are free, not care. (Also, can you believe this?) The mom had to share a bed,
not a room, but a bed, with 3 other women. First it was 2 and then it was 3.
• There is no dental care. They are told to just wash their mouth and that will be enough. There are
many toothless seniors, yellow teeth and cavities. Our guide is 38 and has never been to a dentist.
• “Vietnam is the second most corrupt country on the planet, after Indonesia.” That was a quote.
• Today, South Vietnam remains liberal and the north is not. Keep in mind that the communist north
fought to overtake the south in order to reunite the country. (A reunification is also desired by many
Personally, I could feel the difference between the north and south Vietnam. Folks seemed kinder, softer and gentler in the south, easily offering eye contact and smiles. Still, even in the south, they seemed not as welcoming as the Cambodians. I still miss the near loving slight bows we gave each other. They practice a different form of Buddhism than Vietnam. The further north we are going, the denser the population is becoming. Perhaps it is more like, “I’m glad you’re here enjoying our country, bringing money and sharing our history and culture with your friends but we’re seriously busy here, making a living.” (DVC)
I’m starting to worry that I’m going native; breakfast now consists of com pho, steamed cabbage, and noodles.
• I now shower wearing my undershirt and pants to get the sweat off them and me.
• My Vietnamese now consists of about 27 words, most of them dealing with shopping.
• Ninety degrees is no big deal – I’m talking humidity.
• Crossing a street is no longer an act of fear on my part; the key is not looking at what is coming at you.
• You cannot appreciate how strong a little Vietnamese woman is until you have had a massage.
• I now understand that in Cambodia and Vietnam there are no traffic laws, merely suggestions.
• After Cambodia’s 12th century temples and Vietnam’s 19th century tombs I’m looking forward to my
20th century house. One lesson is that the grandeur of the past doesn’t carry over to the present,
which means that we (U.S.A.) cannot rest on our laurels. (MjM)
On Wednesday we toured the city and enjoyed a boat excursion on the Perfume River and then visited farms, woodworking, boat making places, and mother of pearl work by artisans.
Lunch at the Dong Thien Pagoda was the highlight as it was most enjoyable. It was prepared and served by a 24 yr-old Buddhist nun who entered the monastery at the age of 10. Of course the meal was vegetarian and, prepared using pagoda-grown fruits and vegetables. Delicious!!!
Do you know the reason monks shave their heads? Lice. Washing and combing one’s hair will kill the lice, so to prevent death of any kind they avoid any possibility. Sweeping the house, in or out, could bring the broom in contact with a bug, so they sweep most carefully. (DVC)
Hue has left the least impression on me. It has everything the other places have, ancient temples and tombs, hustle and bustle of a modern city overlaying a developing country’s infrastructure, etc but adds nothing new. Maybe I’m becoming jaded.
The highlight of the visit for me came upon departure. We flew out of the Phu Bai airport which is located across the road from the military base where I spent my first year in Viet Nam. The airport with its control tower remained the same but the jungle had reclaimed what the Vietnamese had left of the base. Well, you certainly can’t expect them to make memorials of U.S. military bases. (MjM)
A note on the pics:
From cruising on Halong Bay, there are a few pics of the limestone karsts. The beautiful cave pics were taken inside one of the limestone 'mountains'. We spent nearly a half day in and around islets viewing the karsts. Cloudy day, though still they were beautiful.
The 'faces' were taken in and around town and out in the countryside. I'd ask first and was granted a yes smile.
Also, six other monks self-immolated and died in support of Thích Quảng Đức who drove the car all the way to Saigon to protest against Diem's oppression of Buddhists. President Diem was catholic and promoted only catholicism.
Ngô Đình Diệm was the first president of South Vietnam (1955–1963). In the wake of the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords, Diệm led the effort to create the Republic of Vietnam. Accruing considerable US support due to his staunch anti-communism, he announced victory after a fraudulent 1955 plebiscite in which he won 600,000 votes from an electorate of 450,000 and began building a right-wing dictatorship in South Vietnam.
A Roman Catholic, Diệm's policies toward the Republic's Montagnard natives and its Buddhist majority were met with protests, culminating in the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức in 1963. Amid religious protests, Diệm lost the backing of his US patrons and was assassinated, along with his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu by Nguyễn Văn Nhung, the aide of ARVN General Dương Văn Minh on 2 November 1963, during a coup d'état that deposed his government.
And from: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ngo-dinh-diem-assassinated-in-south-vietnam
Following the overthrow of his government by South Vietnamese military forces the day before, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother are captured and killed by a group of soldiers. The death of Diem caused celebration among many people in South Vietnam, but also lead to political chaos in the nation. The United States subsequently became more heavily involved in Vietnam as it tried to stabilize the South Vietnamese government and beat back the communist rebels that were becoming an increasingly powerful threat. While the United States publicly disclaimed any knowledge of or participation in the planning of the coup that overthrew Diem, it was later revealed that American officials met with the generals who organized the plot and gave them encouragement to go through with their plans. Quite simply, Diem was perceived as an impediment to the accomplishment of U.S. goals in Southeast Asia. His increasingly dictatorial rule only succeeded in alienating most of the South Vietnamese people, and his brutal repression of protests led by Buddhist monks during the summer of 1963 convinced many American officials that the time had come for Diem to go. Three weeks later, an assassin shot President Kennedy. By then, the United States was more heavily involved in the South Vietnamese quagmire than ever. Its participation in the overthrow of the Diem regime signaled a growing impatience with South Vietnamese management of the war. From this point on, the United States moved step by step to become more directly and heavily involved in the fight against the communist rebels.