#3, (final) Taiwan/Viet Nam, Nov. 7, 1993

Dear Everybody,

The train ride to Danang was beautiful and entertaining as I sat with a Dutch couple that I enjoyed. When I arrived I got a pedicab to my hotel. En route, a young man on a motor scooter began driving alongside and offered to be my taxi tomorrow to go out of town sightseeing to Hoi An, the Marble mountains and China Beach. We made the agreement and when we arrived at my hotel he offered to scooter me to the Tu Do Restaurant, which he did. When I got there and checked my guidebook, it said that this restaurant was the best in town, and maybe in all of Viet Nam. I had a big beer, noodles with seafood and veggies with tea for $2.00. I went for a walk in the misty rain and bought some banana fritters to take back to my room.

My motor scooter man, Luc, and his brother-in-law, whose car it was, came at 7:30 AM as agreed. We started at the Cham Museum, which had wonderful stone sculptures from the 7th to the 15th centuries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some came from My Son, which I saw the next day. Next we went to the Marble Mountains and ascended 167 steps with seven young girls as guides!

 

 

 

 

Every few steps they would say, “Only 103 more steps,” etc. I saw several caves with Buddhas in them. I glimpsed China Beach from the mountain. American G.I.s went to China Beach for R and R; the Viet Cong were in the Marble Mountain caves and could see them on the beach!

 

 

 

 

 

We moved on to Hoi An, a charming village which I walked and explored from 11:00 until 4:00. The highlights were the 200-year-old Tan Ky House; visiting the 300-year-old house at 77 Tran Phu St.;

 

 

eating lunch (cau lau) at 42 Tran Phu St. in a wonderful old restaurant run by three old women;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the Japanese covered bridge; and another house near the bridge where I was invited in for tea and a look!

 

 

 

I also saw a Chinese funeral procession.

 

 

 

The following day Luc and his brother-in-law came and took me to My Son and the Cham ruins. Before we left, they had a conference in the street with three other men. Apparently they were discussing whether or not the police were posted at the highway and would stop them from taxiing illegally and fine them. One of the three men on a motor scooter went to have a look. He came back and reported that there were no police. We proceeded, but at the third town we got stopped anyhow. Luc said they got fined D20,000 which is $2.

We went through Tra Kiew, the village where Luc grew up and where his mother still lives. He is Catholic and this town is where ‘Mary appeared.’ They have an annual gathering on July 31st for all the Catholics in Viet Nam.

On the way to My Son, first I had a little boat ride, then I was motor-scootered, and then I walked with a guide. I walked through two small streams (literally—my sandals got clean!) and finally arrived at the Cham ruins, which were lovely. They are from the 7th to 15th centuries. During the war the Viet Cong hid out in the ‘A’ temple and Americans blew it up. Somebody prevailed upon President Nixon to order the troops not to destroy any more of the Cham temples. We drove back to Danang—it was a lovely day.

The next morning when I was in the airport to fly back to Saigon, I overheard two Americans talking, one of whom had been in the Viet Nam war, and now was returning to see the country again. I asked them if I could join their conversation and discovered that the other American was a college classmate of mine! I had actually seen him at our 1991 class reunion two years earlier. Small world! The plane was delayed for several hours so we had lots of time to visit. Late in the day I arrived back in Saigon, back at the Fenix Minihotel.

 

 

Tay Ninh was my destination the next morning, which is where the Caodai have their main temple. It’s a new religion (1926) and has a huge following.

 

 

 

 

The temple was very colorful with an eye on the front altar. There were about 200 pray-ers kneeling on the floor of the temple.

 

Some of the men wore bright colors, but the others and all of the women wore white. My Fenix Minihotel proprietess had arranged for her son to drive me there.

On the way while driving that day we passed through Trang Bang, the site of the famous photo during the Viet Nam War of the little girl naked, screaming and running from a napalm attack. We also went by the tunnels of Cu Chi but I didn’t want to see them—too depressing,

Back in Saigon I visited the Mariamman Hindu Temple and took a pedicab to Cholon, the Chinese area to eat dim sum in a Chinese restaurant. Afterwards the pedicab driver took me to see Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda, Thien Hau Pagoda, Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda and Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda. That evening I had a special dinner at Maxim’s ending with flaming crepes Suzette! It was a very good day!

 

 

 

The next day I took the bus to Mytho in the Mekong Delta. The rice fields were GREEN—what a bread basket! The bus had tiny little seats and we were smashed in like sardines. I was sitting next to a lovely very slim young girl and I was clearly taking up more than my half of the seat. I bought two Chinese steamed buns before I left and when I ate them I discovered that they had little (pigeon?) eggs in them. When I arrived in Mytho, I got a boat to go to Tam Long Island. It was very interesting with its pretty houses and beautiful pagoda. A pedicab drove me around the lovely town and then back to the bus station, where I got a bus back to Saigon.

That evening (my last in Viet Nam) I had dinner at the five-star floating Saigon Hotel, which was very pleasant and elegant and served very good food. The next morning I bought some dragon fruit to take home with me. As I was preparing to leave, my landlady gave me a gift of a toothpick holder made of cinnamon bark, and also some tea. How nice! A taxi brought me to the airport where I had to stand in several lines. At one point there was a hand on my shoulder—I would need to follow him to an office. Now what? It turned out that the wine pitcher that I had bought in Taiwan, which was in my checked suitcase was round and ceramic so they needed me to unwrap it to show that it wasn’t a bomb!

Off I went to Kuala Lampur in another all-white plane, and then home.

Carol

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