We showed up in Ho Chi Minh completely tired.As usual, Dad got pissfaced on free booze on the plane (shocking fact: just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need to drink it).He was sufficiently gone that he watched Batman Begins, said he loved it, and proceeded to ask if he had seen it one week later.Real cool.
We ate some shockingly good Italian food and Belgian beer and went to sleep early because we’d be flying to Hue in the morning.
Hue was different.Gone was the ridiculous traffic of Ho Chi Minh.There were still a lot of motorbikes, but, as our guide explained, only public officials can drive cars in Hue.Our day involved roaming around to various temples, palaces, and tombs (the highlight).We had a 20 cent coke at a local riverside and then a 5 dollar coke from the minibar.Apparently nobody at the hotel got the memo that Vietnam is cheap.Then again, we played into their greedy, art-deco-loving hands.
Then Dad tried his credit card and it didn’t work because he hadn’t told the Visa company he was going abroad (as I suggested he should always do).So I nice little tete-a-tete ensued in which he requested my sympathy, received none, yelled at the man in Bangalore representing Visa, and left the room for a while to cool off.Because apparently interacting with anyone who isn’t a blood-relative is a bit too much for him.He’s old.
So despite that hiccup we woke up the next day ready to return to Ho Chi Minh.(and the credit card had inexplicably righted itself even though Dad had never completed his eruption at the “God damn foreigner.”)We landed in Ho Chi Minh and set off for the Cu Chih tunnels.These were the tunnels used by the Viet-Cong during the war.They’d pop up like prairie-dogs and take down American soldiers.They also used a lot of elaborate, scary, and cruel booby-traps.This was my Dad’s first trip to Vietnam since the war.While at the Department of Defense, he’d spent a month investigating drug-use among the soldiers.It basically involved staying in a lot of dangerous places throughout ‘Nam and trying to score heroin.Eventually, he told me the story of how he brought a vile of heroin back into the States and later gave it to his girlfriend of questionable morals.
The tunnels were sort of disgusting.You got a good picture of how things went down, but the happy-go-lucky way that they were displaying the torture devices seemed out of place.It was all more amusement park than museum.At the end there was a shooting range, at which I shot my first gun.But I couldn’t help feel a bit guilty shooting at a target in this cruel place.At the end of the tour we had some banyan tea (sooooo good) and tapioca with the guide.He said his father had been in the war and my Dad gave some diplomatic statement like, “the war was terrible for both sides.”I was generally surprised that the war didn’t seem to engender any hatred for Americans.If anything, Vietnam seemed more friendly than most countries.
That night I met up with Michelle and Rosie, who randomly happened to be visiting Ho Chi Minh at the same time and we went out for some pho and drinks.Their neighborhood wasn’t as fancy as the one my Dad and I were staying at.But it was therefore a lot more authentic-seeming.It was a great time but I was completely wiped out from all the touring/flying.Then next day we’d be taking a long trip south to Chau Doc.
We slept in; ate an awesome breakfast (pancakes for the first time in over a year); and waited around for our car for the seven-hour journey to Chau Doc.Our driver spoke no English so we made due with periodic town signs to get an idea of where we were.At one point we stopped at a tourist trap, packed full of fat white people in straw hats buying T-shirts.Everything you go to Vietnam to try to escape.I bought a toblerone, a coke, and 2 t-shirts.Hippocrite.
We finally made it to the hotel around 6 o’clock, just in time for their Christmas Eve extravaganza.The hotel made only passing reference to the “Christmas Gala” in their emails with me, so I didn’t really know what to expect.It was at said-gala that I discovered the cynicism destroyer – a combination of 6 year old kids in santa costumes, and FREE Tiger beer.My Dad and I sat shit-talking for 20 minutes, then about an hour and a half marveling at how wonderful and cute everything was.Beer works, kids.Beer works.Then we went to the buffet and a won a free bottle of Vietnamese wine.The next day (CHRISTMAS!) we’d be heading to Cambodia.