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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Perfume River

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    Favorite thing: --

    On our second day in Hué we took our bicycles with us on a boat trip on the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda and the Tomb of Minh Mang.

    After having lunch on the boat we left the tour and continued by bicycle to the tomb of the Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc (next tip), where we spent most of the afternoon before cycling back to Hué, a distance of about eight kilometers.

    Photos:
    1. Boat on the Perfume River in Hué, 1995
    2. View of the Perfume River, 1995
    3. Turtle carrying words of wisdom

    Next: Tu Duc's tomb

    1. Boat on the Perfume River in Hu��, 1995 2. View of the Perfume River, 1995 3. Turtle carrying words of wisdom
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Cycling

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Tu Duc's tomb

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    Tu Duc (1829-1883), was the fourth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam. During his reign various parts of Vietnam came under the control of the French. In 1884, a year after Tu Duc's death, all of Vietnam became a French protectorate.

    In 1993 Tu Duc's tomb and palace, along with other historic monuments in Hué and vicinity, were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/678

    It rained briefly while we were riding our bicycles to Tu Duc’s tomb, which is why I look a bit wet in the first photo.

    Photos:
    1. Me (somewhat wet) at Tu Duc's tomb, 1995
    2. House at the pond at Tu Duc's tomb
    3. Remains of walls at Tu Duc's tomb
    4. An old tree at Tu Duc's tomb

    Next: DMZ tour, 1995

    1. Me (somewhat wet) at Tu Duc's tomb, 1995 2. House at the pond at Tu Duc's tomb 3. Remains of walls at Tu Duc's tomb 4. An old tree at Tu Duc's tomb
    Related to:
    • Cycling
    • Historical Travel

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    DMZ tour, 1995

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    From Hué we took a "DMZ-tour" -- DMZ meaning the supposedly "demilitarized zone" along both sides of the former border between North and South Vietnam in the 1960s.

    This was a day tour in a mini-bus. We went to the Rockpile, Dakrong Bridge, Khe Sanh, Don Ha Town, Hien Long Bridge and tunnels of Vinh Mac.

    To me, the most interesting thing about this day was the tour group: eleven backpackers of seven nationalities: Dutch, Danish, German, Norwegian, Italian, English and American.

    Khe Sahn was the site of a major battle in 1968. I didn't learn much about it while we were there, but I know from reading that the situation was similar to the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In Dien Bien Phu a French army was entrenched down in a valley while Vietnamese forces bombarded them with mortar and artillery fire from the hills on all sides. In Khe Sahn it was an American Marine base that was down in the valley.

    The difference was that in Dien Bien Phu the French eventually had to surrender, leading to the end of French rule in Indochina. At Khe Sanh after several months the American forces managed to relieve, evacuate and destroy the Marine base.

    In 1995, twenty-seven years after the battle, there was no longer much to see at Khe Sahn besides people collecting scrap metal.

    Photos:
    1. Scrap-metal collectors at Khe Sanh, 1995
    2. Leftovers from the big battle

    Next: A Bru village

    1. Scrap-metal collectors at Khe Sanh, 1995 2. Leftovers from the big battle
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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    A Bru village

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    On our DMZ tour we stopped at a village of the Bru ethnic minority.

    The Bru are one of over forty ethnic minorities that live mainly in isolated mountainous regions of Vietnam.

    In the 1960s the American army sent teams of "Special Forces" into these mountainous regions to recruit members of the ethnic minorities (known collectively to the French as "Montagnards") to serve as mercenaries in the war against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Here in the former DMZ the Special Forces recruited hundreds of Bru tribesmen to fight on the side of the Americans in the Khe Sanh area. Numerous Bru mercenaries were reportedly killed or injured in the fighting.

    In 1964 I had a brief look at two Montagnard mercenary bases further south at the towns of Bu Dop and Bujamap, two Special Forces camps in the jungle by the Cambodian border, north of Phước Vĩnh.

    Photos:
    1. Children of the Bru ethnic minority, 1995
    2. A pig in the Bru village
    3. Bru children in the stream

    Next: Hien Luong Bridge and the tunnels of Vinh Moc

    1. Children of the Bru ethnic minority, 1995 2. A pig in the Bru village 3. Bru children in the stream
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    By train from Hué to Saigon, 1995

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    On August 7, 1995, we took a twenty-four hour train ride on the S3 from Hué to Saigon.

    I think it was on this train ride that I met a man of about my age who turned out to be a retired general from the (North) Vietnamese army. He was traveling with two of his grandchildren, and when he heard that I was an American army veteran he was very interested in talking with me.

    The trouble was that we had no common language. My few words of Vietnamese were enough to explain that I had been a radio operator at Phước Vĩnh and that I had done a lot of interpreting between tiếng Anh (English) and tiếng Pháp (French) while I was stationed in the village of Tân Ba. But that was about it.

    Some people sitting near us who spoke a bit of English or French tried to help, so we did succeed in having a slow and very rudimentary conversation, the main point of which was that there was no anger or vengefulness on either side.

    This was my experience everywhere I went in Vietnam in 1995, which in retrospect I find quite amazing considering that our two governments had been fighting a bitter war just twenty years before.

    Photos:
    1. View from the train in central Vietnam, 1995
    2. Beach and boats, as seen from the train

    Next: Mekong Delta tour, 1995

    1. View from the train in central Vietnam, 1995 2. Beach and boats, as seen from the train
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Trains

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Mekong Delta tour, 1995

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    Towards the end of our Vietnam trip in 1995 Nick and I took a three-day bus tour of the Mekong Delta at the southern end of Vietnam.

    This excellent tour was organized by the original (and at that time only) Sinh Café, which is now called TheSinhTourist to differentiate it from all the imitation Sinh Cafés that have sprung up in the meantime.

    As the oldest person on the tour I got to sit up at the front of the bus next to the driver. When he discovered that I spoke a bit of Vietnamese he amused himself by teaching me more and more words, so that my vocabulary increased exponentially during those three days. I actually succeeded in using some of these words in conversation, but my vocabulary expansion was short-lived because I left Vietnam a few days later and haven't been back since.

    http://www.thesinhtourist.vn/

    Photos:
    1. Life on the Mekong, 1995
    2. Holding a big snake (we called him Monty)
    3. A plant as a dragon
    4. A mosque in the Mekong Delta

    Next: Marguerite Duras in Sa Đéc

    1. Life on the Mekong, 1995 2. Holding a big snake (we called him Monty) 3. A plant as a dragon 4. A mosque in the Mekong Delta
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Marguerite Duras in Sa Đéc

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    On the first day of our Mekong Delta tour in 1995 we went from Saigon to Long Dinh and Sa Đéc and then stayed overnight at a hotel in Chau Doc.

    Sa Đéc is the town where the French author Marguerite Duras lived between 1928 and 1932. Parts of her autobiographical novels L'Amant (The Lover) and L'amant de la Chine du Nord take place in Sa Đéc. The town also figures in one of her earlier novels (fourth photo).

    In 1992 Sa Đéc became known to a wider public, especially in France but also in other European countries (and in Vietnam, for that matter), because of the film of L'Amant, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, which was partly made on location in Sa Đéc.

    I forget what we saw on our tour, if anything, when we went through Sa Đéc in 1995, but I have now learned from various websites including Treasures of Vietnam that the house of Huynh Thuy Le, whose love affair with Marguerite Duras formed the basis of her novel, is now open to the public, with guides offering tours of the house in French, English and Vietnamese.

    This ornate white house at 255A Nguyen Hue Street, combining Eastern and Western architecture, was originally built by a wealthy Chinese businessman in 1895. It was used for many years as an office of a government agency (which did not allow Jean-Jacques Annaud to use the house for his film), but in 2006 the house was declared a "national historic site" and was restored and opened to visitors.

    Photos from the film and also photos of Marguerite Duras are now on display inside, though in real life she never set foot in the house because Huynh Thuy Le's wealthy Chinese father disapproved of the liaison between his upper class son and the underage daughter of an impoverished French widow.

    Sa Đéc is at 10° 18′ 0″ North, 105° 46′ 0.12″ East.

    Photos:
    1. Books by Marguerite Duras: L'Amant and L'amant de la Chine du Nord
    2. Boats and houses on the Mekong, 1995
    3. Book about the making of the film L'amant
    4. Un barrage contre le Pacifique, by Marguerite Duras

    Next: Chau Doc near the Cambodian border

    1. Books by Marguerite Duras 2. Boats and houses on the Mekong, 1995 3. Book about the making of the film 4. Un barrage contre le Pacifique
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Chau Doc near the Cambodian border

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    On the second day of our Mekong Delta tour in 1995 we took a boat trip from Chau Doc, went to Sam Mountain and then stayed overnight at a hotel in Can Tho.

    Sam mountain is the highest mountain in the Mekong Delta (230 meters) and has numerous pagodas and temples which are said to be the destination of religious pilgrims from all over Vietnam.

    From the mountain you can see across the border into Cambodia. This is the closest I have ever been to Cambodia, though I also looked across the border from a helicopter on day in 1964 on a flight to the Special Forces camps at Bu Dop and Bujamap.

    Photos:
    1. View from the mountain, 1995
    2. One of the pagodas on Sam Mountain
    3. Women weaving mats in the Mekong Delta

    Next: Climate change in the Mekong Delta

    1. View from the mountain, 1995 2. One of the pagodas on Sam Mountain 3. Women weaving mats in the Mekong Delta
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Climate change in the Mekong Delta

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    On the third day of our Mekong Delta tour in 1995 we went to Can Tho, then had a boat trip at Phung Hiep and another boat trip Cai Rang.

    Climate change was not yet a big issue in 1995, at least there was little or no mention of it on our tour, but since then the changing climate has brought rising sea levels and more frequent storms. For this reason, development agencies like the German GIZ (formerly GTZ) have been supporting projects to replant the mangrove forests and promote biodiversity to protect low-lying areas.

    On the old GTZ website they quoted one of their climate experts (who happens to be my daughter) as saying that "Viet Nam and in particular its south coast are especially hard hit by climate change," because much of the protective mangrove forest in the Mekong Delta has been cleared to make way for shrimp farms, while the remaining forest has been so severely decimated by overuse that it offers the hinterland very little protection.

    Photos:
    1. House in the jungle, 1995
    2. Living by the river, 1995

    Update: The January 2011 issue of Scientific American magazine includes an article entitled Casualties of Climate Change by Alex de Sherbinin, Koko Warner and Charles Ehrhart. In this article there is a two page spread on the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, showing how this area is threatened by the rising sea. Preview of this article: www.scientificamerican.com.

    Next: Tay Ninh, home of the Cao Dai religion

    1. House in the jungle, 1995 2. Living by the river, 1995
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Historical Travel

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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Tay Ninh, home of the Cao Dai religion

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 20, 2013

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    On our last day in Vietnam in 1995, my son Nick and I took a day tour from Saigon that went first to Tay Ninh, the home of the Cao Dai religion, and then to the tunnels at Cu Chi (next tip).

    I was especially interested in seeing the Holy See of the Cao Dai religion because in 1964/65 I had lived for several months in the home of an elderly Cao Dai couple in Tân Ba. Each evening the old man came to me and asked who exactly would be sleeping in the house that night so he could light the correct number of incense sticks on his Cao Dai altar, one for each person in the house.

    Well, the Cao Dai Holy See in Tay Ninh did turn out to be a bit garish, but I was still rather moved by it because of having known the old couple thirty years before.

    Cao Dai is a religion that was founded in Tay Ninh in 1926. According to the Cao Dai website, the "noble effort of Cao Dai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world."

    http://www.caodai.org/

    Photos:
    1. Drying incense sticks
    2. Cao Dai poster in the house in Tân Ba

    Next: The Cu Chi tunnels, 1995

    1. Drying incense sticks 2. Cao Dai poster in the house in T��n Ba
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

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  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    Vietnamese Dong vs US Dollars.

    by cachaseiro Written Apr 14, 2013

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    Favorite thing: In Vietnam you will often find that you get prices quoted in US dollars as a tourist and that leads some people to believe that they have to pay things in US dollars but that is not true.
    Generally speaking you actually save between 2 and 5% if you pay in Dong as they tend to quote a dollar for being 20 000 Dong while you get between 20 600 and 21 000 if you change it in to Dong.
    This is not a great deal of money but might be useful to budget travellers.
    And you should always try to carry some dong on you as it's not all places that accepts dollars in Vietnam.

    Vietnamese Dong.
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel

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  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    Vietnamese toilet signs.

    by cachaseiro Written Apr 13, 2013

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    Favorite thing: If you are going to the toilet in Vietnam then you might encounter a little problem if you are away from the tourist track as you do not always have signs in foreign languages there.
    Bur if there is no picture and only vietnamese writing then "Nam" means man and "Nu" maeans woman, so please rememebr that if you want to avoid embarrasing situations while in Vietnam.

    Vietnamese toilet sign.

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Travel agencies who impress

    by JohanIsWeg Updated Jan 14, 2013

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    Favorite thing: We used a number of agents during our Vietnam vacation: in HCMC we were very impressed with the professionalism of the budget travel agency Sinh Cafe (make sure it is the genuine one; check out https://www.thesinhtourist.vn/).
    We did the 2-day Mekong Delta as well as Cao Dai/Cu Chi Tunnels with them. The guides were very approachable and knowledgeable. Provided water and snacks on the bus. The overnight tour included accommodation in an adequate hotel in Can Tho. Duc, the tour guide to Cao Dai/Cu Chi, even stopped the bus to allow us photos of rice paddies and Black Lady Mountain, which signifies the border with Cambodia. The bus is comfortable and air-conditioned. They even give you a nice blue t-shirt with Sinh Cafe logo on the front and map of Vietnam on the back! Bus departs from their HCMC offices in De Tham Street, which is the backpacker district and close to scores of budget accommodation.
    Sinh Cafe has offices throughout Vietnam.
    In north Vietnam we used the services of Tonkin Travel, which is more up-market and exclusive. They organised our Halong Bay trip (luxury on the Bhaya - would not go any other way!), which included car transfer to and from Halong Bay with a very safe and conscientious driver.
    We also had a private tour of Tam Coc and Hoa Lu with a very knowledgeable guide. Payment options were easy. Staff also provided lots and lots of information and tips prior to arrival in Vietnam (they communicate via Skype or email).
    Tonkin is at http://www.tonkintravel.com/
    I would recommend both these travel agencies.

    Fondest memory: Halong Bay is without a doubt the highlight of a trip to Vietnam. Sapa is also stunning. The citadel in Hue was interesting and the Perfume River at night very romantic. Quan An Ngon in HCMC is a gourmet's delight! It is a country of the most glorious green...

    Air-conditioned bus to Cao Dai/Cu Chi Tunnels Budget drivers use horns; top drivers use lights
    Related to:
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    • Family Travel
    • Cruise

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  • danishtraveller's Profile Photo

    3-Day Trips from Hanoi

    by danishtraveller Written Dec 6, 2012

    Favorite thing: Very friendly people but, apart from the main cities, language can be a barrier. I have been 8 times and my personal recommendations are Hanoi (and Halong Bay) and the rice paddies in Sapa. For Halong bay you can take the fast ferry out and then rent a fishing boat for a day to return which allows you to do some sightseeing on the way back. Two nights in Cat Ba is enough. There are caves, floating villages and 1000 beautiful islands. The boat will anchor so you can swim and they will buy fish for your lunch at a fish farm. Trekking in Sapa is highly recommended but you will need to arrange this through an agent since you will need a vehicle, a guide and porters. I did a 3-day trek with my son and my mother. We slept in farmhouses and ate with the families. Did not see a road or a motor vehicle for 3 days. Sapa is easily reached by train from Hanoi. Buy all beds in a first class carriage, even if you only need part of it.

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Farm Stay

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    street scenes of Ho Chi Minh city

    by gwened Written Dec 1, 2012

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    Favorite thing: while in the city was able to capture some photos and have memory of this quick trip to Vietnam. As a young boy one day thought maybe one day I visit this place that was so vivid for me in those days. Well it has taken a long long time but I can finally say I did it. Country 78 on my list of visited.

    Fondest memory: walking the streets and see all those businesses flourish in the hectic traffic and buzzle of the city of old Saigon.

    a ride over the bridge crossing the saigon river going over bridge and see all those motos!!! the street scene in district 1 by Ly Tu Trong st. street corner of the city daily  life museum of ho chi minh
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

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