I arrived in Saigon about midnight local time on Wednesday. I met a VN man on the plane, and stayed with his family that night. On Thursday, they took me to the train station, and I took the Reunification Express to Nha Trang, where I am now. The cost was about $11US, including a meal. Not bad. It was a 6 hour trip. Met 3 Aussies on the train, so I had someone to talk to. The time difference is 15 hours, re California time. I'm 15 hours ahead of you.
Yesterday, I just wandered around Nha Trang, and slept. I think the time change has finally out-weighed my adrenaline, and I slept for about 12-13 hours. Today, I took a tour around Nha Trang on a motorbike. What an experience!
No one follows the rules - its incredible - don't think they even have a concept of a traffic court here! Last night I met an ex-GI from Texas - here for exactly the same reason. I think we're going on a boat tour tomorrow. I'll probably leave for Qui Nhon on Monday, and then Bong Son. I haven't found a courthouse yet, but I did figure out how to say "judge" and "courthouse" in VN - that was a real chore - try describing the concepts to a 3 year old, and you'll get the picture.
Having a great time so far. The humidity is oppressive. The smell is as I remembered - at times - oppressive! Everything is very inexpensive - room is $10US - bought a hat for $1.67US - bought swim trunks for $1.67US - spending about $4US per day on food - beer is $1US for a 20 oz bottle - just as bitter as I remember, but very cold and wet - 1 liter of water is $.35US - get the picture - a house (without modern appliances) rents for about $300US per month - not a bad place to retire!Everyone moves at a slow pace, but they seem to be happy - not the stressors as in the US.
Well, it doesn't seem like I've been here all that long, but I'll be coming home in about 5 days. I've tried several times to get online, but to no avail. Now that I am back in Nha Trang, hopefully I can do better. I made it up to Bong Son - it was kind of disappointing, but what I expected. The train ride was long, and dropped me off at Bong Son at 3AM - nice time.
The motorbike driver really had to raise a ruckus to get the hotel owner to open up for me. I was the only "foreigner" in Bong Son - I felt like an alien - people would stop and gawk - almost caused a couple of accidents!! It was hard to find anyone who spoke English - quite a treat when trying to order a meal - a lot of hand signs and a lot of soup. I did meet with a VN judge (and they said it couldn't be done!) - rather interesting, since he didn't speak English, and I don't speak Vietnamese. He was very gracious, and did allow me to take some pictures of the courthouse and his chambers (and we think we've got it bad!). Thru the hotel owner, I finally found an English teacher. She and her brother took me around to all of the places I wanted to go on their motorbikes. Most of the schools I built are either gone or reconstructed - but what
should I expect after 35 years. There are now paved roads, electricity, and brick houses instead of dirt paths and mud huts. Everyone has a TV. The big event in Bong Son was sitting in front of the hotel with the owner, not saying a thing to each other, just nodding occasionally and smiling, and watching the traffic go by. I'm sure his reputation went up with me there - or not! There were only 3 hotels in Bong Son - right next to each other. The cost was about $4US per night - not bad for no AC, cold shower, and a squat toilet! There is a lot of construction going on in VN - everywhere. In Bong Son it was houses and small businesses - and the courthouse!. In Nha Trang it is tourist related. Not sure where all of the money is coming from, but there is a real boom going on. I've heard that VN is expecting a real boast in their tourist industry, and everyone seems to be getting geared up for that.
There is a huge difference between Nha Trang and Bong
Son. Nha Trang is similar to Monterey/Santa Cruz - everything is geared towards
the tourists and the ocean, and separating the tourist from their "dong". Bong
Son is similar to Chico/Oroville - it is the district (county) seat, and the
people seemed to more genuinely curious/interested. I didn't feel like someone
was trying to sell me something every time I turned around. I really liked Bong
Son - the only downside was the language. I'll spend a couple more days here in
Nha Trang, and do some shopping, then I'm off for Da Lat, and then Saigon for
the trek home.
Well, tomorrow I leave for HCMC, and then fly home Wednesday AM. I'm in Da Lat now, and the internet service is really poor - so I hope you get this. Took a bus from Nha Trang to Da Lat yesterday (Sunday). Even though it was an A/C tour bus, it was hot, bumpy and boring. It seemed like any time the driver wanted to talk with one of his friends, we just stopped, he got out, talked, bought coconuts, etc. What a trip. What was supposed to be a 6 hour trip turned into 9 hours. I would imagine that the trip tomorrow to Saigon will be about the same, only longer. That's OK, because I'm just going straight to the airport, and spend the night there. I check in at 4:30AM, so I don't see any need to get a hotel.
Da Lat is a beautiful mountain city. As I recall, the US bought its vegetables here for the troops. The weather is cool, no mosquitoes, and low humidity - what more could anyone ask for? - life is good. The French built a wonderful RR station here, although it is not connected to anything right now. They also built their summer villas here. A whole row of these huge villas, sitting empty and boarded up - a shame - gets my restoration fingers just itching! They are all owned by the government, but can be leased for 10-15 years. Supposedly, there are some incentives offered by the government, but they can't be very good, as none of them were being rehabbed. It's OK to turn them into hotels, etc., but no one seems to want to do it. Oh well.
I rode around Da Lat on the back of a motorcycle today - a member of the Easy Rider group. Spoke English very well, and seemed to know a lot about Da Lat; although it was obvious that it was very "party line". But, what should I expect, I am in a Communist country. Every time I tried to make a comparison with the US, the subject was changed - we left on very good terms, though, and, if I had time, I wouldn't mind taking a trip to the Central Highlands with him.
Well, we'll see you in a couple of days - I've had a fantastic time, in spite of the transportation problems - it was just part of the experience. I can see how expiates, with no ties or family, would want to retire here.
Hi All - I have finally posted all of the pictues I took on both of my recent VN trips. Previously I sent you a link to one of the albums. There are now 7 albums. This link should give you access to all of the albums.
These more then likely include the pictures of the first trip as well. (FB)