An eye-opening visit to Vietnam

This article appears on page 52 of the March 2011 issue.
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Don and Jean Morris (far left) and their OAT tour group pose in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

by Don Morris, Pismo Beach, CA

My 19-day trip to Vietnam in June 2010 was a revelation. Naively, I expected to see the country that was depicted on television 40 years ago during the Vietnam War, but, today, the Vietnam reality is much better than my long-ago memories led me to believe it would be.

During our 80 years of life, my wife, Jean, and I have visited approximately 50 countries, and I have never been so wrong about my preconceived ideas of a people or their government or their country.

Americans are received with real warmth, both in the north and the south, yet the country appears to be caught between the communism of the past and the draw of capitalism.

First impressions

Transporting agricultural goods and construction materials on motorcycles in this way is common throughout Vietnam.

After a 20-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok, where we stayed overnight, we were off on the final flight leg to Hanoi.

Over 19 days, we traveled from the far north of Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City (the old Saigon) in the south. To get from one end of the country to the other, we took four different plane rides and the bus plus walked and rode “cyclo” tour bikes.

Our guide, Nuguyey Huu Quang, was an exceptional person who spoke English well and took excellent care of us.

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was a visit to the University of Da Lat. We had student guides who took us on a tour of the campus, and their eagerness to speak English was impressive. They wanted to keep in touch when we returned to the States, and within a couple of months I had already received e-mails from them.

Remembrances of war

Grim reminders of the Vietnam War were on display in the war museum in Saigon. In the most graphic form, the four-story remembrance museum paints the Vietnamese view of the war. Among the artifacts were many photos showing the devastation of the country.

Currently, more than half of the population of 89 million was born after 1975, and they seem to have a limited awareness of the war.

A major safety issue in Vietnam is that the country is scattered with bombs and mines left over from the war, which, since 1975 have killed 10,529 people and injured more than 12,000 throughout the six central provinces. It was strongly recommended by our guidebook to not stray off the used trails.

Following a cruise on the Mekong Delta, the Morrises were introduced to this boa constrictor at their lunch stop.

A true highlight of the trip was our visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, once used by the Vietcong, which cover more than 200 kilometers.

We were asked if we wanted to go into one of the underground tunnels and walk through to another opening, so we gave it a try. We made it, but the guide told us about another American, with a backpack, who tried to traverse a tunnel and got trapped. They had to dig him out. (They told us this story after we did our tunnel walk).

Wrapping up

While in Hanoi, we visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where thousands of people were waiting in line to see the leader’s crypt.

We also took a ride on a junk and stayed overnight on Ha Long Bay. It proved to have some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen.

The only real drawback during the trip was the heat and humidity. We were told that ours was the last tour of the year, tours not resuming until the temperatures went down. Many days, it was 105°F with 95% humidity.

Our guided tour of Vietnam with Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/221-0814) cost $5,300 for both of us, including all travel and most meals. We paid an additional $595 for optional tours (three at $60 per person) and our Vietnam visas.

The trip was demanding on our 80-year-old bodies, but it was most insightful and worthwhile.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Don and Jean Morris (far left) and their OAT tour group pose in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

by Don Morris, Pismo Beach, CA

My 19-day trip to Vietnam in June 2010 was a revelation. Naively, I expected to see the country that was depicted on television 40 years ago during the Vietnam War, but, today, the Vietnam reality is much better than my long-ago memories led me to believe it would be.

During our 80 years of life, my wife, Jean, and I have visited approximately 50 countries, and I have never been so wrong about my preconceived ideas of a people or their government or their country.

Americans are received with real warmth, both in the north and the south, yet the country appears to be caught between the communism of the past and the draw of capitalism.

First impressions

Transporting agricultural goods and construction materials on motorcycles in this way is common throughout Vietnam.

After a 20-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok, where we stayed overnight, we were off on the final flight leg to Hanoi.

Over 19 days, we traveled from the far north of Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City (the old Saigon) in the south. To get from one end of the country to the other, we took four different plane rides and the bus plus walked and rode “cyclo” tour bikes.

Our guide, Nuguyey Huu Quang, was an exceptional person who spoke English well and took excellent care of us.

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was a visit to the University of Da Lat. We had student guides who took us on a tour of the campus, and their eagerness to speak English was impressive. They wanted to keep in touch when we returned to the States, and within a couple of months I had already received e-mails from them.

Remembrances of war

Grim reminders of the Vietnam War were on display in the war museum in Saigon. In the most graphic form, the four-story remembrance museum paints the Vietnamese view of the war. Among the artifacts were many photos showing the devastation of the country.

Currently, more than half of the population of 89 million was born after 1975, and they seem to have a limited awareness of the war.

A major safety issue in Vietnam is that the country is scattered with bombs and mines left over from the war, which, since 1975 have killed 10,529 people and injured more than 12,000 throughout the six central provinces. It was strongly recommended by our guidebook to not stray off the used trails.

Following a cruise on the Mekong Delta, the Morrises were introduced to this boa constrictor at their lunch stop.

A true highlight of the trip was our visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, once used by the Vietcong, which cover more than 200 kilometers.

We were asked if we wanted to go into one of the underground tunnels and walk through to another opening, so we gave it a try. We made it, but the guide told us about another American, with a backpack, who tried to traverse a tunnel and got trapped. They had to dig him out. (They told us this story after we did our tunnel walk).

Wrapping up

While in Hanoi, we visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where thousands of people were waiting in line to see the leader’s crypt.

We also took a ride on a junk and stayed overnight on Ha Long Bay. It proved to have some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen.

The only real drawback during the trip was the heat and humidity. We were told that ours was the last tour of the year, tours not resuming until the temperatures went down. Many days, it was 105°F with 95% humidity.

Our guided tour of Vietnam with Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/221-0814) cost $5,300 for both of us, including all travel and most meals. We paid an additional $595 for optional tours (three at $60 per person) and our Vietnam visas.

The trip was demanding on our 80-year-old bodies, but it was most insightful and worthwhile.