Bien Hoa Favorites

  • The small pagoda, 1965
    The small pagoda, 1965
    by Nemorino
  • Photo from an RVN propaganda leaflet
    Photo from an RVN propaganda leaflet
    by Nemorino
  • 1. The old man tending his garden, 1964
    1. The old man tending his garden, 1964
    by Nemorino

Most Recent Favorites in Bien Hoa

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    The back yard

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    In the back yard, November 1964

    Favorite thing: --

    This photo of me in the back yard, with the old man walking along the path beside the hedge, was taken in November 1964. Of course that's the Dong Nai River in the background.

    Shortly thereafter our sergeants started stringing up trip flares around the edges of the back yard, so if anyone tried to sneak in at night a flare would go off.

    One night a trip flare did go off and we all shot at it -- all except the half dozen "combat policemen" who were supposed to be stationed at the back of the house. We later found them huddled inside the house with blankets pulled up over their heads.

    Next: The Police Chief

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    The Police Chief

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Police Chief

    Favorite thing: --

    This was the commander of those fearless combat policemen who always seemed to be somewhere else when any sort of attack was going on.

    Since the Police Chief also spoke French, I was asked to convince him that when a trip flare went off his men were supposed to shoot at it. But he was horrified at this idea: "What if we kill a pig?"

    All the Americans were infuriated at this answer (including me, I was so militarized by this time!), but in retrospect I have to admit that he had a point there. A pig was a valuable possession in this part of the world, and since we were supposed to be "winning the hearts and minds of the people" we should have been careful not to kill their pigs, or at least give them compensation if it happened.

    The old man whose house we were quartered in was also upset because we had shot up one of his grapefruit trees.

    Next: Visit from the American ambassador

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Visit from the American ambassador

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Major Giam with US Ambassador Maxwell Taylor

    Favorite thing: --

    At the time it was a novel idea to help the local population in hopes that they would support the South Vietnamese government and not the Viet Cong.

    Major Giam thought this was a good idea and worked very energetically to put it into practice, but he once told me they should have started ten years earlier. "It might be too late. The Viet Cong has a ten-year head-start on us."

    The American ambassador, Maxwell D. Taylor (1901-1987), a retired army general, visited Tan Ba by helicopter on December 17, 1964. He and the reporters who were with him stayed for about an hour and were shown the new pigpens and wells that the government forces had built. Supposedly they were very impressed, but I can't imagine why.

    www.carlisle.army.mil/USAWC/

    Next: Decibels

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Decibels

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Photo from an RVN propaganda leaflet

    Favorite thing: --

    My comment on this one was: "If decibels could win a war, we would have won this one long ago."

    Next: Christmas in Saigon

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Christmas in Saigon

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Christmas in Saigon

    Favorite thing: --

    Over the Christmas holidays in 1964 our whole advisory team went to Saigon (later re-named Ho Chi Minh City, but at that time it was still Saigon) and had dinner together at a restaurant. Our medic also brought his Chinese girlfriend along.

    Some other things happened in Saigon that Christmas, for instance the Brinks Hotel was blown up -- as I have described in two of my Saigon tips, Explosion on Christmas Eve and Jitters on Christmas Day.

    Next: The old man in the helicopter

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Food and Dining

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    The old man in the helicopter

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. Going for a ride in a helicopter, 1964
    2 more images

    Favorite thing: --

    One day the old man told our Major C. through an ARVN interpreter that in all his seventy-eight years he had never been up in a helicopter. So a few days after Christmas we talked one of the American pilots into taking him up for a ride, sort of as a small gesture of thanks for putting us up or rather having to put up with us in his house.

    Actually after the first few weeks he didn't seem too unhappy with us. We gave him our empty tin cans, peanut butter jars, whiskey bottles and cardboard boxes, all of which he seemed to have a use for.

    And we sometimes found ways to help him out a bit. One of the sergeants who knew about such things helped him prune his fruit trees in the back yard, and I once spent half an hour fixing the chime on his Westminster clock. For some reason the chime had stopped chiming and started going thunk-thunk-thunk. All it took was a screwdriver and a little experimenting to get the chime in the proper position.

    Photos:
    1. Going for a ride in a helicopter
    2. Taking off
    3. In the helicopter

    Next: Me at my desk

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Me at my desk

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Me at my desk

    Favorite thing: --

    This was my desk at the front left corner of the house in Tân Ba. Note the ever-present weapon leaned up against the wall on the right.

    The lamp was attached to a battery, since we had no electricity. The little globe was one I had bought in Saigon, with the names of all the countries in Vietnamese.

    When I wasn't interpreting for Major Giam I sometimes talked on the two-way radio, for instance to the helicopter pilots or to our colleagues just a few miles up the river at Tân Yuên. But I also had lots of spare time for reading and writing, which was fine.

    One evening each week the old man and his wife listened to a broadcast of a Vietnamese opera on the radio. To me it sounded just the same as Chinese opera, but they said it was Vietnamese.

    www.vietnamopera.com/

    Next: Our next door neighbor

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Music

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Our next door neighbor

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. Handing a cup of coffee over the cactus hedge
    1 more image

    Favorite thing: --

    Most of the Americans had the fixed idea that the Vietnamese were lazy, lacked initiative, etc., but our next door neighbor was living proof that this was not true.

    In his thatched house he had a café where I often went to meet the local people and practice my few words of Vietnamese. He served us our breakfast every morning by handing us fresh coffee and French bread across the cactus hedge between the two houses. And he did our laundry (second photo).

    When he had saved up enough money he made the most sensible investment that anyone could have made in a rural village in wartime. With the help of some relatives and neighbors he dismantled his house, put in a sturdy cement floor and rebuilt the house on top of it. Anything else could easily have been destroyed by rocket or mortar attacks, but his cement floor was practically indestructible, and when I returned thirty years later it was still there.

    Photos:
    1. Handing a cup of coffee over the cactus hedge (with his thatched house in the background)
    2. Picking up our laundry

    Next: Water from the river

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Water from the river

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. Fetching water from the river
    2 more images

    Favorite thing: --

    Another industrious person in our neighborhood was this young lady who earned money during the dry season by carrying water up from the river, not only for us but also for other people on our street.

    Rumor had it that her brother was a member of the local Viet Cong group that was based in a small patch of jungle about three miles away, so maybe she was spying on us, but she was so nice about it that we didn't mind.

    Perhaps she even saved us from being directly attacked by telling her brother that our house was full of weapons and the whole backyard was surrounded by trip flares. Maybe she even knew that our sergeants had set up a Claymore anti-personnel mine, a devilish machine that sends shrapnel flying in all directions when it is set off.

    Photos:
    1. Fetching water from the river
    2. Pouring the water into a big jar
    3. On her way back for another load

    Next: Children in Tân Ba

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Children in Tân Ba

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. Children in T��n Ba
    1 more image

    Favorite thing: --

    The children in Tân Ba, as everywhere in Vietnam, were always very friendly and entertaining.

    After school was over for the day they were usually free to run around as they pleased, except that some of the older children had to carry their younger siblings around and look after them.

    Photos:
    1. Children in Tan Ba
    2. Children on our street

    Next: The small pagoda, 1965

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    The small pagoda, 1965

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The small pagoda, 1965

    Favorite thing: --

    This was one of my old photos that our driver showed people by the roadside when Nick and I were trying to find the village of Tân Ba in 1995.

    Several people recognized this distinctive small pagoda with the dragons on the roof, though they must have found it quaint to see an RVN flag in the picture, since the old "Republic of Vietnam" had ceased to exist twenty years before.

    GPS 10°58'40.63" North; 106°46'3.57" East

    Next: The village school

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    The village school

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. In the school, 1964
    2 more images

    Favorite thing: --

    The village school was right behind the small pagoda and just next door to the house where Major Giam, the District Chief, used to live.

    The schoolyard was full of children in 1964 (second photo). Thirty years later there seemed to be fewer children (third photo) and a couple of them even had bicycles, but otherwise the schoolyard looked much the same as before.

    GPS 10°58'39.76" North; 106°46'3.51" East

    Photos:
    1. In the school 1964 -- photo from an RVN propaganda leaflet
    2. Children in the schoolyard 1964
    3. The same schoolyard 1995

    Next: Tân Yuên

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Tân Yuên

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. T��n Yu��n, 1964
    1 more image

    Favorite thing: --

    A few miles up the river from Tân Ba there was a town called Tân Yuên where another small group of Americans was stationed.

    We went up there once on a river boat, sort of a patrol boat that belonged to the RVN navy. This was the only time we ever traveled anywhere by boat.

    Since Tân Yuên had taken several direct hits from mortar fire a few days before our visit, there was rubble everywhere, and the whole place looked quite desolate. I knew the American radio operator there, and didn't envy him, not only because of the mortar attacks but also because the new American major at Tân Yuên was one of the crazy kind who used to walk around the jungle (with his radio operator) looking for trouble, so he could become a hero. One of the younger American officers tried to get him court martialed, but to no avail.

    In 1995 the area around Tân Yuên looked quite idyllic (second photo) but in 2010 the provincial government decided that Tân Yuên should be the site of a new industrial park, as you can see by clicking on the link below.

    Click there especially if you are a potential investor, which is what they are looking for.

    GPS 11° 3'30.15" North; 106°47'52.41" East

    http://namtanuyen.com.vn/web/?lang=en

    Photos:
    1. Tân Yuên, 1964
    2. Drying rice near Tân Yuên, 1995

    Next: Our visit to Biên Hòa in 1995

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Our visit to Biên Hòa in 1995

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Nick at Bi��n H��a Bridge, 1995

    Favorite thing: --

    In the city of Biên Hòa in 1995 we stayed at the Peace Hotel (Khách San Hòa Bình), which was fine, but I won't do a hotel tip on it since I have no idea what it's like now or even if it's still there.

    We had a meal at a restaurant by the river and then walked over to the road and railroad bridge, where we were politely reprimanded by a local policeman for taking this photo, since taking pictures of bridges was still illegal in 1995 even though there wasn't any sort of war going on.

    In the evening I had a long talk with a hotel employee named Nguyen Tri who wanted to practice his English but was also very helpful in finding us a car and a driver that we could hire the next day.

    On my Tân Ba intro page I have described how our driver kept stopping and showing my old photos to the local people, so we were eventually able to find our way to the village of Tan Ba, where the teachers invited us in for tea and later took us up the road the house where I had lived thirty years before.

    Next: Access to the river 1995

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Access to the river, 1995

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 14, 2013

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1. Showing me the new public landing, 1995
    1 more image

    Favorite thing: --

    The people who lived in the house in 1995 were all descendents of the old couple I had known thirty years before. After they showed me the new addition they had built onto the back of the house they took me down to the river to show me the other big improvement, a set of stone and concrete steps and a ramp leading down to the river bank.

    This really was an improvement, because thirty years before there had been nothing here but a steep path that was dusty in the dry season and muddy during the monsoons.

    They seemed really proud to show me this since I was one of the few people in the world who knew how it used to be.

    GPS 10°58'42.62" North; 106°46'10.30" East

    Photos:
    1. Showing me the new public landing, 1995
    2. The seven people who took me to the new landing, 1995

    Update October 2010: I have just looked at Tan Ba on Google Earth for the first time in several months. They have added new imagery, dated January 29, 2010, which shows that a new highway bridge has been built, crossing the river just north of Tan Ba, about 220 meters upstream from the public landing shown on this tip. This new bridge connects the right bank of the river to the large hourglass-shaped island, which up to now has been reachable only by boat. (But so far there is no bridge connecting the other side of the island to the left bank of the river.)

    Next: Washing dishes in the river, 1995

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Bien Hoa

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

100 travelers online now

Comments

Bien Hoa Travel Guide

Bien Hoa Favorites

Reviews and photos of Bien Hoa favorites posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Bien Hoa sightseeing.

View all Bien Hoa hotels