Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hue, Vietnam

It's difficult to keep track of days, dates, and times since, by our body clock, it took 30 hours to get to Hanoi, and once in Vietnam, Tucson remains, by the clock, 14 hours behind us. Let's just say that Tuesday morning, January 13th at 11:00 a.m. we piled 7 riders, our guide, Luc (a 40 y.o.  Vietnamese from Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh), and headed for the Hanoi Airport.

A pause to introduce who's sharing our journey with us. All are retired, all are seasoned international travelers (I am the least well traveled of the bunch). We will meet 4 more riders, also about our age, but a bit younger, in Hue: twin sisters and their spouses. One of the twin couples lives in Sidney, the other couple in London. Thus, our group will be 11 plus our guide. We will be accompanied by a 15 passenger bus/van and a truck which will haul our bikes when need be, our dedicated truck driver/mechanic and another sous mechanic who doubles as sweep.

All but Kirk and David have enjoyed previous cycling trips and tours. David, from NZ, is the only one without a spouse or travel companion (his wife doesn't enjoy traveling), and only started cycling 3 weeks before the trip, an ambitious guy. I am the only one of the bunch who, you might say, has a cycling resume.

Kathy and Linda are from the DC area, worked for the federal government in the same department at the DOT, and have been travel companions for years.

Niki and Ron retired from CA to CO several years ago and also brought their own bikes with them, Bike Fridays. Interesting to have 3 sets of Little Wheels in the stable.

The airport rituals we have come to expect in the US were thorough, but relaxed in Hanoi,  so much so we completed the entire check-in process AND a delicious, fairly priced lunch in under 60
minutes. We arrived at the gate as they were boarding, facing no gate closures 15 minutes before
take-off and no blaring announcements, and left on time.

A 15 person bus met us and Phuc (pronounced fook), our driver for the duration met us at the airport and drove us immediately to the Citadel for a brief tour; the 3 of us with Bike Fridays still had to build our bikes before night fall and the others had to be fitted to their rental hybrids.

A bit about Hue. Her population is currently 358,000. Hers is a blend of the imperial old with the recent excesses infused by tourism. For better or for worse there is no night life; the locals go to bed by 10:00.

In 1802 the capital of Vietnam was moved from Hanoi to Hue in an effort to unite North and South Vietnam. The Citadel was completed in 1835. In 1885 the French responded to an attack by the Vietnamese by storming the Citadel burning the imperial library and stealing every object of value.

Hue became the focus of attention again in 1968 during the Tet Offensive when the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong stormed the Citadel and gained control of it. During their 3-1/2 weeks of control of the Citadel 2,500 merchants, priests, government workers, and just workers were shot, clubbed or buried alive. The US and the South Vietnamese armies responded by leveling whole neighborhoods, battering the Citadel, and napalming the imperial palace. 10,000 lives were lost in the Tet Offensive, most were civilians.

Despite the fact that many private American dollars are steadily flowing into all of Vietnam to help rebuild what was destroyed during the Vietnam-American war, I find my overarching feeling while traveling here is one of deep sadness and guilt, much like what I have felt when walking through Civil War battlefields, visiting Confederate Prisoner of War Camp and burial ground in Andersonville, GA, and Historic Williamsburg, feeling in my bones, my soul the depth of the capacity of human fear, hatred, and our nation's, my nation's, capacity to arrogantly or ignorantly abuse it's power to destroy, while clinging to the belief that it is doing so for the betterment of some,
if not all.

Looks like pictures will have to be integrated into my blog after I return home. For those of you on Facebook, you can catch some pictures on Facebook by liking my page, Bentwanderer, at
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bentwanderer/443932479020958?ref=hl

3 comments:

r said...

It's true that there has been an enormous amount of human suffering through the numerous wars and hard times in Vietnam. But there also is a more hopeful vision -- the country is at peace and its economy is expanding, providing many new opportunities. You can see the new Vietnam as it is four decades after the end of the war in my photography book: www.Vietnam40YearsLater.com.

Robert Dodge said...

It's true that there has been an enormous amount of human suffering through the numerous wars and hard times in Vietnam. But there also is a more hopeful vision -- the country is at peace and its economy is expanding, providing many new opportunities. You can see the new Vietnam as it is four decades after the end of the war in my photography book: www.Vietnam40YearsLater.com.

Susan said...

Robert, I totally agree with your assessment and mission. Hoping to purchase a pre-publication book after we return home. Thank you for joining the reconciliation efforts. The Vietnamese are an amazing people.