We left the beach town of Vung Tau for another beach town 400 km up the coast -- Nha Trang. Getting there was a real adventure. What would normally take a few hours in the West, took an afternoon, a night, and into the next morning. The reason it took so long was because the roads are in major disrepair and filled with oxcarts and pedestrians. Since there are no petrol stations, the driver had to search and locate jugs of gas in the roadside villages. The Aussie boys and I made the most of the delays; smoking pot continuously, drinking beer, and playing with the joyful children. We had to restrain Nathan from a quickie when a mother brought out her three teenage daughters for our perusal.
Fresh steamed crustaceans for 50 cents.
Arriving in Nha Trang we were delighted to be some of the only Westerners on a huge and beautiful city beach. Days passed quickly living the good life in the 'Nam. A week later we were changing our travel plans to stay another week.
An extended family in a beach village.
Often I'm asked how the Vietnamese people responded to me being an American. The answer is they loved it. I was given preferential treatment and more attention than I expected or wanted. Most of the people in Vietnam are under the age of 25 and know nothing of the war. Hollywood movies like Platoon and Good Morning Vietnam shape impressions, where Americans are recognized as compassionate compared to the revolutionaries who liberated the country. The people of Vietnam are very poor and just wish to make their lives better. They hope to emulate their prosperous neighbors; the economic giants Thailand and China. They see American companies and travelers not as aggressors at all, but godsends who can change their plight of poverty.
A half-black teenage kid using the public restroom.
One day the Aussie boys and I rented motor scooters and did a complete tour of Nha Trang and the surrounding area. At sunset we stopped at a tea house on the bay for a spliff and some chai. The owner asked us cordially where we were from. "Australia" said the lads, and he smiled. "America" I said, and he broke into a big gaping grin and came over to hug me. "Please sir, you must come into my home. I wish to show you something." I got up and followed him into his humble mud-wall and thatch-roof home, with about 20 family members watching my every move. "Up here," he motioned with a candle in hand towards a wall that looked like a kind of shrine. Up on the wall were a dozen old and crusty snapshots of my host as a young man with several U.S. soldiers. He recounted a proud and detailed story of each shot. It really moved me, and I felt a strong kinship with this man and his country.
The Big Buddha reminds Nha Trang to meditate.
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