This is the last of a series of E-mails that i sent during my trip to Vietnam in late 2005.
Original post date: 21 Dece 2005
I’m back in Apple Valley a little earlier than expected. I already talked to Darryl who was going to post a message about me being back, but I figure that I should beat him to the punch and add more entertainment value to the announcement.
I arrived Sunday afternoon and trying toget past the jet lag. I’m still having problems with speaking English in short choppy sentances. The trip was incredible to say the least. It was without a doubt the trip of a lifetime. I have memories and stories to last several lifetimes.
One of the best things about the trip was being able to communicate with everyone back home every once in a while. I thought that I would be cut off from everyone here until I returned. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. I want to thank everyone who sent E-mails to me while I was gone. It was great to hear from you and especially receiving all the questions while I was traveling. I’ve compiled answers to some of the questions here:
How do the Vietnamese feel about Americans?
This was by far the most asked question and my own most concerning question before I arrived in Hanoi. I was especially concerned about how the Vietnamese treat half-breeds, such as myself, because I’ve heard terrible stories about those similar to me who were left in Vietnam after the war ended.
The actual answer will take some explaning because there is distinct differences between the North and South about Americans.
The short answer is most of the Vietnamese are just as concerned about how Americans feel about Vietnamese as we feel about them. The people I met and especially the younger people are very curious of everything about America. They want to see more Americans visit their country and especially make friends with more of us.
Did the Vietnamese speak English?
Most of the younger generation learned English in school, but speaking English is challenging to them due to the lack of opportunities to speak it. My girlfriend and I worked a system out that I would write down complex communications so she can more easily understand it.
Speaking English in Saigon was much easier than in the North. I would compare Saigon to Tijuana in English speakers.
How is the economy is Vietnam?
The economy is a lot better than what I expected in Vietnam and is improving very rapidly. There are a lot of foreign businesses where the younger generation prefers to work due to better pay and capitalistic work environment.
It is very obvious that Saigon’s economy is bursting with success. Much of the city that I assume the Veterans would remember is new and modern. The tin huts that I rememberd when I was a kid are pretty much gone. There are many high rise buildings and newer houses. It looks a lot like Orange County.
Who is the girlfriend?
Her name is Vu Thi Ngoc Ha or Ha for short. For those of you who were wondering, Ha is actually her name and not half of a laugh.
I was not looking for a girlfriend much less a wife while I was over there. However, my relatives had different ideas. My relatives literally had over a dozen women lined up for me to date during my visit. They were carefully picked for me. They were all very beautiful, intelligent and some of them came from very rich families even for American standards. I was set off on my first date less than three hours after arriving in Hanoi. Ha was not a part of this group.
My Mother knew Ha from her last trip to Hanoi. Ha was supposed to be a tour guide for a couple days rather than a girlfriend prospect. Long story short, Ha became much more than my tour guide.
Did you eat any dogs?
I honestly can’t tell you if I did or didn’t eat dog. That goes with eating cats too. I do know that I ate things much more exotic than a dog or cat. I also lost a lot of weight while there. I call it the pig brain diet.
What did you drink?
Most of the major cities had their own beer; Hanoi Beer, Thai Binh Beer, Haiphong Beer, Hue Beer and Saigon Beer were of the many that I’ve drank. My favorite was Hanoi Beer.
The rice wine was very good and very strong. It came in the same container as bottled water so I had to be careful about what I was drinking. There was some very exotic drinks that would blow everyone’s mind. It comes from various fermented animals. I took a swill of some and was surprised that it was a lot sweeter than it looked from the container that it came from.
Did you pee on Ho Chi Minh’s grave?
Hi Chi Minh is inturned in a huge mausoleum. When I came to visit, it was guarded by two platoons of guards on the outside and eight guards armed with AK-47’s on the inside. I was immediately seen as an American and watched very carefully. That in mind, it was not a good idea to relieve myself on Ho Chi Minh’s grave.
Did you get into any trouble?
I was a good boy for the most part, but did push the envelope a few times. The communists are very touchy about taking pictures of certain things. As everyone knows, I’m loaded with cameras and coudn’t resist the opportunity.
Ha and I worked a system out that I would play the dumb tourist and take pictures of things that I wasn’t supposed to as long as I could until someone tried to bust me. When a guard or someone tried to stop me, I would speak Spanish until Ha ran over and pulled me away. It worked perfectly.
I will see everyone at Rotary tomorrow…
Dan Harley, Jr.