Trip Start Sep 26, 2004
Trip End Jan 15, 2005

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Flag of Vietnam  , Cao Bang,
Tuesday, December 28, 2004

December 28, 04

After a 5 hour bus ride from Savanakhet, Laos I arrived in Vietnam. Things seemed to change almost as soon as I crossed the border. Different scenery was the first thing I noticed. Vietnam is hilly and mountainous and very lush. Banana and palm trees everywhere. The bus crossed close to the DMZ and we went right through the town of Khe Sanh. It was a remote outpost, but the siege there made it a famous base. I was going to take the DMZ tour from Hue, but others said unless you were a real military historian, it was a long day with not much to see. The bases and battle grounds are pretty much all over grown. I would have liked a tour of the tunnels, but their wasn't a separate tour for them so I skipped it. Maybe next time.
After crossing the border I ended up in Hue, a city near the east coast. I took a moto tour of the city which included several war related stops. I saw the famous Hamburger Hill, and a French bunker that was built into the hillside overlooking the river that runs through the city. It's called The Perfume River, but when I went on a sunset river cruise aboard a dragon boat, we passed a few areas that did not reflect the name adequately. I signed up for the tour not knowing I would be riding my own moto. Hue has 250,000 residents and 125,000 of them ride their motos every day.The other half ride their bicycles. It's a mess.Traffic was a real challenge until our group found its way out of the city. Beautiful country side with rice fields, canals for irrigation, and small farms scattered about. Poverty is here, but it doesn't seem as bad as the other countries. They appear to be much more self sufficient in Vietnam. The people are friendly as well. Smiles, waves and a real comfortable feel to the way they treat travelers. I have had several people introduce themselves and sit and talk with me at lunch or dinner. One man and his daughter wanted help with their English. He wanted his daughter to sing Jingle Bells so I could correct her pronunciation. She was too embarrassed so I just had her speak the words. I took a few digital pics of them and he gave me his e-mail and asked me to send them copies. My hotel is right across the street from a tour company and bar/restaurant. A lot of travelers and backpackers hang out here. It was a meeting place for all of us on Christmas Eve and day. I bought a Santa hat and gave it to the owner, and she wore it all night. Funny stuff. Adult beverages were consumed as well. (Shocking, I know)
The news of the Tsunami made me think of where I was a few weeks ago. I did visit islands close to Kho Phi Phi. That island was almost completely destroyed. All the islands are packed this time of year with travelers and backpackers. Very scary to think that there was no warning and the waves just came in and washed sunbathers and swimmers out to sea. Others drowned in their hotel rooms or were crushed by debris. Awful stuff.
I'm now in Hanoi for a week waiting for my train to Beijing. I met an Australian girl on the moto tour of Hue and she and I were going to explore an area north of Hanoi called Halong Bay. After that maybe a trip to Sapa and an overnight with a hill tribe in the northern mountains near the Chinese border. That tour includes New Years Eve in a fancy hotel. Not sure yet, as I missed my connecting bus today and am a day behind the group. My bus broke down twice and was 3 hours late getting to Hanoi from Hue.
We'll see....................Allen
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