The “Good” War

So you would have fought during World War II but not Nam, Korea or Iraq and Afghanistan.

What was the actual outcome of World War II?
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Why did we fight World War II?

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

Britain and France declared war on Germany because Germany invaded Poland. That was the pretense at any rate.

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor after America had engaged in a systematic effort to deny the Empire of Japan the resources necessary to build their Nation and Empire.

By the end of World War II, Poland and all of Eastern Europe was in the hands of a greater evil than Hitler could ever have hoped to represent. That evil being the Soviet Union.

Soviet Communism which later morphed into Maoist Communism took China.

Communism also swept through Southeast Asia.

The end result of World War II was that the West fought Japan and Germany in order to hand over their Empires to the Soviet Union.

World War II was a direct cause of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and attributed to the rise of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the cause of 90% of the Islamic Fundamentalism on this Globe. Islamic Fundamentalism is the root of Islamic Terrorism.

If there were no Saudi Arabia, there would exist no taliban, no ISIS, no al Qaeda, no Khorasan and so on and so forth.

Fundamentalist Shi’a Iran can also be traced to poor decision making based on the the Cold War anti-Communist paranoia that haunted the West from 1945 through the end of the Soviet Union circa 1991.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict can be traced back to World Wars 1 and 2.

World War II also gave us the CIA and the NSA via Cold War paranoia.

You can research any and all of this with a simple google search.

I’m not seeing how World War II was “the good war.” It was an asinine war prompted by the American Banking conglomeration.

World War II was not the good war. It was a war like any other only on a global scale. It put the globe to the flame and destroyed millions of lives and billions of dollars of property.

America profited from the outcome immensely which drove our recovery out of the Great Depression and into the boom years of the 50s and 60s.

It was as much an elective war for the United States of America as Polk’s Mexican War or LBJ’s Vietnam War or Bush’s Iraq War or Obama’s wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

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The Last Century Accomplished Nothing!

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I do not think that Hillary is Hitler. One politician is about the same as the other. Some, like Hitler, are simply more successful in moving society to accomplish their aims. The aims are all the same. Control of the populace in a given geo-political area for the advancement of personal power. There is nothing more to it.

There are no Great Leaders out there.

Look at the great leaders in history.

Lincoln — He kinda freed the slaves. But not really. In order to keep the South in the Union, he prosecuted a war which claimed the lives of millions. How is he different than Hitler or Stalin or FDR or Churchill or any of the Monarchs of the 17th Century.

FDR took America to war for Democracy and to save the Free World. In the end, more people were enslaved by communism than were threatened by the madness of Hitler.

Ike, JFK, LBJ took us to war in Vietnam to stop the communist dominoes from falling. In the end, those communist dominoes fell anyway. Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia all fell to communism. Indonesia became a dictatorship.  Nixon’s “peace with honor” all but ensured the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge.  Congress’ failure to support South Vietnam or Laos after our withdrawal ensured their fall to communism.  What did we accomplish except to participate in slaughter and sacrifice our citizen soldiers to madness and arrogance.

We supported the Indonesia dictator.

How were the people of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos better off after our War of Liberation?

In Iraq, Bush “liberated” the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein only to have Obama hand those same people over to a Shi’ite despots and the Islamic madmen of the Islamic State.  All the while, we supported the Monarchy which fuels Sunni Extremism via Dollar Diplomacy.  The Wahhabis owe everything to Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabis are ISIS, al Qaeda, al Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood and every other Sunni Islamic Extremists group extant.

In what war has America actually helped anyone?

We defeated Germany and Japan? They went on to become economic superpowers. This would have occurred anyway. In fact, the war with Japan was over the US and Britain keeping resources away from Japan that would have allowed them to become an economic superpower. We basically warred with Japan for five years in order to destroy them so that they could recover and become exactly what we had attempted to stop them from becoming. Millions died because FDR and his economic obstructionism. Yet, FDR is a hero and Hitler is a villain.

It was the same with Germany. Britain did not want Germany to become master of the Continent. So, we warred with them twice in conflagrations which engulfed the world in flames…so that Germany could become the economic master of the Continent.

What did we accomplish with our wars?

Asia slowly recovers with Laos and Cambodia lagging and their people suffering in poverty. Vietnam is becoming a mini-economic superpower and are loosening their economic controls so that capitalists can profit. This benefits the State and the Capitalists. There is relatively little benefit to the people.

Germany is the power of the Continent.

Britain has lost it’s empire. (I suppose that’s a plus).

America is still an economic power though we are doing our best to implode.

Russia is what it has always been. The poor man of Europe and the villain of the east.

China is a burgeoning beast with the potential to ruin or save the world as it has always been.

And history begins to repeat itself.

Is war on the horizon?

It seems that Political Leaders of the World are repeating the sins of the last century even as they preach of peace. I see no peace. I see no good coming of this next few decades. If the “Great Leaders” of this coming Century are as incompetent and arrogant as those of the last, the World is doomed to simply repeat the sins of the past.  There were be Great Leaders only because they take us into Great Wars.

Where are the visionaries?  Where is our Jesus?  Our Moses?  Our Gandhi?  Where are the leaders who not only preach peace but practice it?

Can the earth survive human war or human peace?  If we war on one another with our current technology, we may make this world uninhabitable.  If we do not war and continue “peaceably,” human being will reproduce in unsustainable numbers.

There seems to be no way out.  By War or Peace, humanity’s ignorance and lack of foresight endangers itself…ensures it’s fall.  Perhaps that is not a bad thing.

Monetary Notes of the World


Unny and I had this table custom made for our new digs out in the ‘burbs.  Cost a bit, but, not too much.  It’s made from teak wood.  I wanted something in which to display the monetary notes which I’ve collected from my travels.  I only wish that I had some of the notes that are in my storage room back in the States.

There are notes in there from China, Dubai, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Vietnam, North Korea and a few other countries.  As well as notes from old French Indochine.  The note with the tiger is from Vietnam during the US war era.  I actually got that one from ebay.com because I thought it was cool.

There are also coins in there from all over (Japan, Malaysia, EU, England, etc).  Some old ones but mostly newer coins.  I placed my three French Indochine Silver Dollars. They’re probably counterfeit, but, I don’t care.  That actually makes them a little more interesting to me and I paid a pittance for them.  3 or 4 bucks.  Nothing to cry over.  I knew or thought that they were fakes when I purchased them.

I also placed of couple of Greco-Bactrian coins in there.  Supposedly, they’re silver and over a thousand years old.  I don’t know.  So many fakes being sold in Afghanistan these days.  Even so, those coins are supposedly a dime a dozen over there.  Chances are they’re real.  They’re not rare, though.  At least not for anyone who’s traveled in Central Asia.  They’re all over the place there.  It is said that one can find them walking out in open ground or on fields and such.  They’re that common place.  Neat little pieces of history.

The necklace is a Kuchi piece that I purchased at a bazaar in Herat.  It’s made of brass and copper with a few worthless gems thrown in for good measure.  It has an old animist relief on it.  Looks to be an old Ganesh likeness to me. I also placed my Bamian Buddha stamps in the lower right corner and four little jewelry/snuff boxes.  The two with Camels depicted on them are from Dubai and made from silver and glazed to make the camel likenesses.  The other two I purchased in Herat.  Those two are supposed to be silver as well.  Though, I doubt it.

There you have it.  My little collection of monies (and sundry items) from around the world.

Olympus E30

Dave's CamBag

My new camera.

Making plans to take a 9 day tour of Vietnam with Unny in December.

We’ll start at Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  Take the fast boat down to Chau Doc.  The first day in Vietnam we’ll do the Mekong Delta tour.  I’ve done it once but this will be Unny’s first time there.

Then it’s off to Saigon.  While in Saigon, we’ll take the Cu Chi Tunnel tour and tour the City.  Plan on hitting up the backpacer area and maybe we’ll buy a painting or two.  Definitely have to entertain ourselves at Apocalypse Now Bar.  Stop by Mogambo and see Mama Lani.

Next stop will be Da Nang.  At Da Nang we’ll spend a day at Hoi An.  There is an art shop there that I’d like to visit.  Theysell original art.  A bit pricey.  I think I’ll splurge this time and buy one or two of the guys works.

From there, we’ll find a way down to Hue City.  I want to see the Citadel there as well as the old Royal Cemetery.  We’ll take a cruise down the Perfume River.

Final stop will be Hanoi.  A tour of the city there will include the Hanoi Hilton, the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum, the old French Quarter, the lake in the center of the city (the name of which escapes me right now) and the National War Museum among other places.  This time, I’m going to get over to Halong Bay as well.  I missed it last time because I was too lazy to get up and go.

I’ll use the new camera to take plenty of pictures and Unny and I will have a ton of new and amazing memories to reminisce upon in our “Golden Years.”  lol

Should be a great trip and I bought this groovy new camera just in time.  Now I just have to learn how to use it to it’s fullest capability.

The McSanctity of Life!

https://i0.wp.com/z.about.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/1/V/iraq_mcdonalds.jpgI do not believe that life is sacred.  Merely being born does not make one worthy of life nor does it make one entitled to a good life or an easy life.  I believe that it is up to each individual to make their life sacred.

I’ve often asked the question and very rarely been answered, but, who defines what life is sacred.

Whose life is sacred Mother Theresa or Hitler?

Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great?

Xerxes or Ceaser?

Attila the Hun or Aetius, Master General of Rome?

Mahatma Gandhi or Kublai Khan?

Ted Bundy or Ted Kennedy?

Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson?

Mussolini or Charles De Gaulle?

Pol Pot or Ho Chi Minh?

Singh Man Rhee or JImmy Carter?

Teddy Roosevelt or FDR?

Chiang Kai-shek or Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong)?

Josef Stalin or Leon Trotski or Vladimir Lenin or the Romanov family they murdered?

Was the life of George Patton more sacred or less sacred than that of Erwin Rommel?

The lives Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson who were two of the most pious and religious American Generals were more or less sacred than the lives of Grant and Sherman. Sherman who supposedly said that the only good indian is a dead indian and was the author of modern day total war.

The Monk in Southeast Asia who studies Buddhism and teaches by his example yet does not believe in Christ as his savior. Sacred or no?

The Hindu Brahman? Sacred or no?

The Roman Empire and it’s millions of souls. Both the murderer of Christ and the main vehicle by which Christianity became THE primary religion of Europe. Had there been no Ceaser, there’d have been no Constantine.

And in the end, we live our beliefs. America says it believes in the sanctity of life even as we demand higher profit ratios and cheaper sneakers and nicer houses at cheaper prices. These things all come at a high human toll.

Yet, life is sacred?

It’s a good thought that is seldom put into action.

We invade Iraq because it has oil which is the grease of the capitalist machine. Then we stand idly by and watch as genocide occurs across the African continent.

http://robeusgeopoliticus.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/iwo_jima-mcdonalds.jpgLife is cheap.

There is nothing sacred about it. We love the sentiment. It makes us all feel better. Jesus and his words of Faith, Hope and Love. Christians who worship the man, yet, ignore his words.

Personally, I think Jesus would be ashamed of Christendom.

Life is as sacred as a Super-sized Big Mac Menu Meal.

The McSanctity of Life.

America has proved this time and again.  We preach human dignity and self determination even as we support dictators who are willing to do our bidding.  We preach self determination even as we have a distinguished one hundred plus year history of deposing democratically elected governments in the name of corporate profits.

Before one of you morons calls me unAmerican or a “blame America firster,” you might want to read a little history.  Start with Chile and Guatemala.  It’s a world tour.  Next stop, Vietnam and Iran.  Come on back home and read a bit about Honduras, Panama and Cuba.  If you know nothing about these chapters of American history, speak not to me.  You’re a blind and ignorant fool.

“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end”

Another Painting from Vietnam

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This painting reminds me of the “olden days.”  Simpler times and uncomplicated people.  A time in which I would have loved to have lived.  Grow  your own veggies and fruits.  Hunt your families meat.  Make your own clothing.  Create from  scratch or barter for other of life’s necessities or luxuries.  Build your own hooch in the jungle or on the river.  Live your life in as simple a manner as possible.  I don’t know if it was ever really like that, but, it’s a nice fantasy.

We have made life much too complicated in modern times.  We have created Governments to free us and provide security, etc.  But!  Have we freed ourselves?  Are we truly secure?  Governments are created and forced on people no matter their preference to have or to not have them.  In modern times, the people have grown so dependent on governance that we have no semblance of true independence.  No idea of true free will.  I don’t know if this is good or bad.  What have we as choices in America?  Democrats with their independence diminishing entitlements programs and Republicans with their parasitic, blood  sucking big business.  I’m inclined to believe that both are enemies of the people.  Both enemies of freedom and free will.  We have allowed our independence for which the founding fathers paid a blood price to be whittled away until it is no more than a mere shadow of it’s former self.  We have sold our freedom so that we might shuffle up to the trough of Democratic entitlements or 9-5 slave waging for Big Business.   It seems to me at times that we are no more better off than the serfs of the Middle Ages.  Certainly, we are fatter and we live longer.  But, to what end?  To what end.

At any rate, this is my favorite painting of those that I purchased in Vietnam.  I bought this in Hanoi in  the old French Quarter not too far from the Hanoi Hilton.   Hanoi was amazing to me.  It was another world.  I roamed the streets for hours.  Hired both a moto-taxi and a Sampan to tool me around during my two day visit.    I took a tour of the infamous Hanoi Hilton with it’s pictures of John McCain and John Kerry.  It’s a horror show inside as it was a French Colonial and Vietnamese house of horror and torture.  The prison was built by the French Colonial Government and used to hold and interrogate political prisoners until the French withdrawal after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu.   The Ho Chi Minh government then took control of it and used it to hold American POWs as well as Vietnamese POWs, political dissidents and others who opposed the communist governement.  Only a small part of the oringial compound remains.  Still, it is an interesting tour.  One can wait in line for an hour or so and view the body of old Uncle Ho.  No cameras allowed, though.  Take a 15 minute ride on a sampan and view his house and Capital building.  Venture over to the War Museum with it’s grotesque displays of human tragedy and war propaganda.

Some of the damage that America wrought 30 years ago in Hanoi is still evident.  One can still see the bomb craters here and there around town and in the country side.  Even so, the Vietnam people have mostly moved on.  Leaving the war behind as best they could and a bit better than we did.  I’m sure there are many wounds that are yet to heal.  But the people whom I met welcomed me and were generous in their hospitality towards me–the visiting American.

Traveling on the Mekong, one sees women much like this lady washing their hair over the river.  Rinsing their hair with a bucket or a bowl.  Early in the morning.  Sometimes through a foggy haze…it’s quite beautiful.  A mesmerizing site.

Something wonderfully peaceful about such a scene to me.  I can’t quite explain it.

I got her framed at Deck the Walls in Oxmoor Mall in St Matthews Mall in Louisville, Kentucky.  My old Kentucky Home.    And she hangs in my parents house while I’m over here in Afghanistan.

Water Pics from Around the World

These are a few pics that I’ve taken throughout my travels.  Thailandfriends.com sponsors a monthly photo competition.  These are a few that I considered before submitting my final selection.

It’s a decent site with some cool folks.  If you get a chance, stop by and check out the photos in the competition.  Usually some decent pics on display.  Creative folks who are fairly well traveled.

Phantoms

I haven’t seen my Dad for a while. It’s an odd relationship that I have with my father. If we are together, we can lapse into conversation as if we’d just seen each other yesterday. If I’m not there with him, it’s as if I don’t exist. It’s a bit odd. But I’ve come to accept it. I have always felt like I know my father well. Even when I couldn’t quite figure out how I should react to him. If I see him when I’m home. I see him. If not. It’s just the way it is.It’s just his way. He lives in the present. He deals in the here and now. If you’re not in the moment with him, you don’t exist. It’s a coping mechanism, I believe. It was a long road to come to the realization that it wasn’t personal.

Early in my life, I reacted harshly to my memories of my father and his mistakes.

Resentment. Anger. Hate.

Ultimately, I turned away from those and decided to walk a different path.

Acceptance. Love. Fate.

He is what he is. I have no desire to change the man. And the effort would drive a man insane. An email every now and again would be nice, though. lol

One thing that I remember clearly about my father from childhood is that he had a fascination with the F4 Phantom. Pops was a Jarhead. A Devil Dawg. He served a tour in ‘Nam. Up near Da Nang on China Beach at the foot of Marble Mountain. I’m sure that an F4 or two probably covered his platoon out on patrol. The Huey UH1. The Patton Tank. Things I remember distinctly from childhood. Visiting Fort Knox and Patton Museum. I still smile when I pass the Patton Museum.

I was doing research for a post for my blog. A new post on Vietnam that I’ll put up at a later date. Vietnam always brings my father to mind. So I googled F4 Phantom and found the video below. The Phantoms are all but retired. They’ve been put to rest so to speak. The wars are over. I hope that the same can be said for my father. The name of the F4 is somewhat symbolic of my father. He is a bit of a phantom as well. He has been a shadow in the lives of his children. Existing on the peripheral of our vision. Rarely daring to venture closer. It’s fitting. It’s also a perfect video as the aircraft is taking off. (Lest someone think I’m angry, I’m not. I laughed when I typed that. lol)

In 2006, I visited Da Nang. I went there to go where my father had been during the war. I walked around Marble Mountain. Explored the fields around it. Explored it’s caves and sanctuaries. I sat and marvelled that I was fortunate enough to make such a journey. Fortunate enough to see Vietnam in peace. As it was meant to be. I sat and wondered what it was like for a young man to land on China Beach. Full combat load. Ready to fight. What is it like to move in to the country and attack ancient cities like Hue.

China Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand. Da Nang is a modern city of 3 Million. Da Nang. It’s a peaceful place now. The Marble Mountain is a tourist attraction. It juts into the sky on the outskirts of Da Nang. A few hundred meters from China Beach and the sea. The top of Marble Mountain was knocked off during the war. Even so, it’s a beautiful place to visit. Tranquil. Perfect for reflection on the miracles, fortune and wonder of my life. Yet, like Vietnam and the Veterans who served there, it is scarred.

I met a couple of Vietnam War vets while I was in Vietnam. One guy probably served with my Dad. He was with the 1st MARDIV in 68-69. Perhaps, he ran into my Pops and they had a beer together. A very possible happenstance.

I found beauty and peace on my trip to Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were extremely welcoming. Nice folks. Especially out in the rural areas. I hope my Dad has found as much beauty. As much peace.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

Kahlil Gibran

Paintings from Vietnam

 

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This is the ubiquitous Vietnamese Schoolgirl. Every city in Vietnam from Chau Doc to Saigon to Da Nang to Hanoi, they wear these Ao Dai and can be seen coming and going to University. There is something exotic about these girls in these long dresses. They cover them from neck to ankle and they are so waif like. It’s pure feminine. Hard to forget. And the little girls going to and from school are adorable as well.

Cham Buddha

 

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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa

The above is Pali. The language of Siddhartha Shakyamuni the Buddha. It means:

Homage to the Exhalted One; Perfectly enlightened by Himself

Buddhists will chant this three times while bowing three times when they enter a Buddhist Temple. It’s not so much worshipping of the Buddha as it is paying homage to him for passing on the way. The Middle Path. The path to Nirvana. The escape from the cycle of suffering.

I had been looking for a painting of Buddha for a year.  Something that struck me as true.  I think that I’ve been too heavily influenced by my time in Cambodia.  This Buddha has a strong Khmer influence.  The ears.  The hair.  It even has a strong resemblence to Jayavarman VII who is known as the Buddhist King.  This painting is the origin of the tattoo on my left shoulder.

Cosmic Apsara

 

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This painting is the Cham interpretation of the Apsara. It has a cosmic feel about it. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was as if she were floating above in Mount Meru watching us as we mortals toiled away our days on this earth.

Buddha and the adoring Nun

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This painting is totally taboo in Buddhist culture. A female is not supposed to touch the Buddha nor should a female touch a Monk. Yet, the portrayal of the act in this painting speaks to me of a devotion and a love so deep as to make defiance of tradition and custom not only possible but eminently obligatory.

The first three paintings I purchased in Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi An is one of the oldest port cities in all of Asia. Marco Polo and Genghis Khan both visited this city. European, Chinese, Japanese merchants all traded their wares at this port. Travelers from all over Asia, Europe and the Middle East stopped over on their way to the markets of the world.

I picked up the fourth painting in Saigon in the backpacker district around Pham Ngu Lao area. This area has many of these art shops. The artists here will paint anything for you. All you need do is give them a picture. They’re quite talented young people.

Lost in the fog of war; A peaceful Vietnam…30 years later

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If we were not in Vietnam, all that part of the world would be enjoying the obscurity it so richly deserves.
John Kenneth Galbraith

 

About a year ago, I found myself in Vietnam. It was a strange feeling to be there. I’m the son of a Vietnam War Veteran. I’ve got at least 5 Uncles who were in Vietnam or Southeast Asia during the war. I served in the Cold War era Army. We were still singing Vietnam era cadences during Drill and Ceremony and Physical Fitness Training. ‘Nam was the enemy back then. And somewhere in the back of my mind, this country still felt somewhat like the enemy. Intellectually, the war was over. Some 30 odd years gone. Emotionally, I still felt a tug somewhere deep in the inner sanctum of my spirit. It still somewhat felt like a place where the enemy still lurked. As I made my journey down the Mekong towards the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, I couldn’t help but recall stories, half memories of things that Vietnam Vets had said in TV interviews, scenes from movies like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket. In my head, there were “gooks in the wire” and I didn’t quite know what to expect as a lone American trekking through Vietnam.

My worries, such as they were, were all for naught.

I landed at the border control point in a small nameless village off of the Mekong. The border control agensts were worried about three things. Passport. VISA. Border Crossing Tax.

They verify your VISA. Stamp your Passport. You pay the tax. You’re on your way.

The Vietnamese people were fascinated by the American in their midst.

“Where you from?”

America.

“Ah…America GOOD!”

Not what I expected. lol

But a pleasant surprise.

The first stop after the border crossing was a town called Chau Doc.

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In Chau Doc, I hired a guy to drive me around in a rickshaw. This is an extremely slow way to get around. lol You feel like you could get out and walk faster. Especially since all rickshaw drivers deem it their duty to ask you every question that pops into their head. Your age. Your name. Are you married? Where you’re from? What is Kentucky? Do you have girlfriend? And on and on.

After exchanging money, I wanted to get to an internet cafe. It seems that there are internet cafes in even the smallest towns in Asia. I was driven down a series of side streets and alleyways and finally deposited in front of an open faced building with about 20 computers. There were probably 11 or 12 young boys and girls playing online games.

As I walked into the internet cafe, I glanced next door at a group of older gents who were having a drink. I don’t know if this was someones house or a restaurant or…? No clue. I smiled and said hello. All of the men smiled at me and one said something to me in Vietnamese. I turned around to my rickshaw driver who informed me that they would like to have a drink with me. I’m never one to turn down a drink. (it’d be rude) I accepted. One of the guys handed me a shotglass. We toasted to world peace or the beautiful women of Vietnam…something. lol Who knows. I downed the drink as they all stared at me. They smiled when I finished and then downed their drinks as well. Repeat, Rinse, Finish. I drank a couple of shots with them. Some kind of rice whiskey, I’m sure. Pretty strong. I wanted to spit the first drink back out. Like drinking fire. But I learned in Korea not to make the “HOLY SHIT!” face when imbibing in strong drink with Asian men. It’s a machismo thing. Finally, I begged off. Telling them that I needed to contact home.

I sat down to email home and tell everyone that I was safe (if only for now).

No sooner had I sat down than a pretty little Vietnamese school teacher asks me if her young students could practice their English on me. Well, I was a still little high from the liquor. But I’m never one to turn down a pretty gal. So I was suddenly faced with about 15 beautiful little Vietnamese children. Probably aged 6 to 10. They stood in line patiently and orderly in their school uniforms. Each of them walked up to me. Said Hello. Welcome to Vietnam. Told me their name. And wished me a good day. It was the cutest thing in the world.

After the children had finished, the cute teacher thanked me for my patient assistance and I finally was able to check my email.

The next day, I was off to Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon.

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I stayed in Saigon a few days. While there, I took a tour of the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi which is right outside of Saigon. It was an interesting tour. Cu Chi is a sprawling complex of tunnels that runs throughout the country side and at one time supposedly ran all the way back to and through Saigon. I crawled around in some of the tunnels. At some points the tunnels were so small, so tight that I actually got stuck in a few place and had to back out, turn sideways or otherwise contort my body to make it through. I was too big to fit into their entrances and had to go through the ones that had been widened after the war. There was absolutely no way to fit my shoulders through those entrances. I can’t believe that people were/are that thin. lol But I guess if you are subsisting on rice, tapioca and tea for 10 to 25 years with the added stress of combat….thin would be the least of your problems. At least you’re alive. There’s your diet if you want to lose weight. Tea, steamed tapioca, rice and stress so intense that you get post-traumatic stress syndrome. I’ll pass.

Cu Chi was one of the most bombed areas in what was once called South Vietnam. We knew there were tunnels there. We didn’t know the extent. So we bombed the place into a no mans land. Absolutely pummeled it. The craters in this area are immense and numerous. Markers of war’s and America’s brutality. You see signs every so often. US B52 bomb crater. Pictures from the era show a land decimated. Lifeless. Total destruction. Like a moonscape. Nothing but craters and earth torn asunder.

For my part, it was strange touring the tunnels. Everything is from the Vietnamese perspective. The Vietnamese view of how things went down with a healthy does of Uncle Ho philosophy. The tour guides talk of having so many American kills. The Imperialist Americans did this. Blew up this. Bombed that. The picture of the tank that ran over a mine… When I took that photo. The tour guide was saying; “this one got hit so it couldn’t DROS.” DROS is the term used for soldiers who are moving out of theatre to go back to the states from an overseas assignment. All of the representations of the enemy were American soldiers. When I saw people posing on top of that tank for pictures, I felt offended. But even so, I understood. Except the Americans who did so. I couldn’t quite bring myself to pose in such a manner with a symbol of my country and it’s mistaken policy. A symbol of my fallen comrades. Not even after a space of 30 years. It felt like someone pulling at a scab over my heart. There were many mannequins in Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army Uniforms. The tour guide was very proud of his Army’s defeat of the American Imperialist. Very proud of his military. I could identify with that as I’m proud of my comrades in the military–past and present. Each time, he stopped by a group of mannequins posed in various acts, he would say; “Vietnam solder, very beautiful.” It was comical. But awesome to see such pride in the military. And it felt genuine and not arrogant or forced. My tour guide was an ex ARVN soldier. He was very matter of fact about the whole thing. He/They spoke of Americans as we speak of the British at our Rev War battlefield parks. A bit painful to hear my fellow countrymen spoken of in such a fashion. Odd. They didn’t seem to hold a grudge. And they very well could have. A learning experience.

At the end of the tour, there was a firing range. You had a choice between an M60, AK47, M16, .50 Cal of some sort and an M14. I blew off a few rounds on the AK47. You paid about .50 cents a bullet. Locked and Loaded and fired away. Then handed your weapon back to the range dude. Great to be able to shoot a weapon and then just walk away. Not worry about cleaning it and passing weapons inspection as in the old Army days

I can’t help to think as I am walking around that these people went through 25 years of hell and all they wanted was to be left alone. China, France and us.

A few days later, I flew to Hanoi. Walking around Hanoi and visiting their museums, I caught myself thinking about the war. Looking around, wondering how many of those who were walking by me would be combatants. How many would be dead if we were still bombing Hanoi. I met some really nice people up in Hanoi. Yet, I used to think of the Vietnamese as inhuman when I was a young boy and a young soldier.

Everyone in Vietnam was open and welcoming. I was treated warmly everywhere. I had no bad encounters. They seem to harbor no grudge over the events of 30 years ago. Even the old soldiers who will sometimes walk up and tell you that they fought in the war. But not as if bragging, just a matter of fact statement. And then they will say; “America GOOD!” Smile and go about their business. That was amazing to me. It’s the universal saying over here. “America Good!” (While back home, it seems that the press is always telling us “America bad…”)

As in Beijing with Mao, I went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausaleum and saw Uncle Ho in Hanoi. Something disconcerting seeing a petrified Human. They worship Uncle Ho. Especially in the North. You don’t hear much criticism of him. And rightly so, I suppose. He was already a God-like figure prior to the end of World War II. Then he led them out of Colonialism in defeating the French. Threw off “American Imperialism” when we decided to make the mistake of following the French into Indochina. (How we did not figure out that following the French anywhere was a bad idea, I will never know. That should have been intuitive.) The more I know about history and such, the more I wonder about decisions of American Presidents in the post WWII era.

More on Hanoi later…

These are photos from the Cu Chi tunnel complex.

viet-minh-booby-traps.jpg One of the traps employed by the Viet Cong to take U.S. Soldiers out of action during the war.

tunnel-rat-cu-chi-tunnels-near-saigon.jpg Emerging from a tunnel. A couple of women freaked out down here. I got stuck in some places. Lots of crawling sideways. These tunnels were definite not designed for those of Europ descent.

us-tank-that-hit-a-mine-in-1970-no-dros-as-the-tour-guide-said.jpg A group of tourist pose atop a US Tank. This was a meloncholy moment for me. A Vietnamese War Tropy, A sign of failed American policy, Fallen Comrades.

door-spike-trap.jpg Another gruesome trap from the jungles of Vietnam.

 

These photos are from Hanoi.

 

ho-chi-minh-mausaleum-hanoi.jpg Uncle Ho’s Mausaleum. Walk through a long line. View Uncle Ho. The guy is revered throughout Vietnam.

war-museum-hanoi-1.jpg war-museum-hanoi-2.jpg This is a pretty famous photo from the War Era. It’s blown up to lifesize and placed in front of a pile of wreckage and unexploded ordnance from the War era.

uncle-ho.jpg Statue of Ho Chi Minh in the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

hanoi-hilton.jpg A photo of the old Hanoi Hilton complex. This was originally a French prison. The French Colonial government imprisoned political prisoners here prior to their ignominious defeat and retreat from Indochina. The North Vietnamese turned it into a POW prison for high value prisoners such as pilots and officers. John McCain was imprisoned here as a POW.

 

 

 

 

The Mekong River — Life Blood of Southeast Asia

The Mekong flows an estimated 4,880 km (3,032 mi) from the Tibetan Plateau through Yunnan (China) province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finally Vietnam. It is the lifeblood of thousands of Asian folks who live at the mercy and benevolence of this great river. It’s name in Thai–Mae Khong–means “mother of all rivers.” Interesting note about the Mekong is that it flows backward at certain times of the year. This is because the low tide level of the river in Cambodia is lower than the high tide level out at sea. Therefore the flow of the Mekong inverts with the tides throughout its stretch in Vietnam and up to Phnom Penh. I’ve travelled the river at low tide and high tide. It’s a much more comfortable ride at high tide. I can attest to this. lol

I’ve travelled the Mekong River in both directions. The first time I floated down river to Chau Doc, Vietnam on my way to Saigon. I’ve actually done this twice. Once alone and once with a friend in the video above. I, also, took the boat up from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap two times. These are beautiful, scenic and quite peaceful journeys. Well, once you get to the point where the boat engines drone themselves out. haha Each journey lasts anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. Depending on your boats engine, river level, customs if you are taking the Phnom Penh to Vietnam route and any inconvenience such as a breakdown that might occur.

On my second trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, our boat stalled out in the middle of the Tonle Sap lake for about 30 minutes. We sat in the middle of this huge lake and spun in place as the boat operators worked on their engine. Finally, they got it started and we proceeded for another hours journey.

The first time I journeyed from Phnom Penh to Saigon was during the rainy season. About noon, a downpour and winds came on so strong and so swiftly that I feared our boat might not last the day. But as swiftly as it came on, it left and the sun came out and produced a series of rainbows so large and beautiful as I’ve never seen elsewhere.

Neither video nor pictures can do the Mekong justice. It is a magnificent river. A mighty river. Beauty and life abundant. Each journey is magical and unique in it’s own right.

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A restaurant in Phnom Penh overlooking the confluence of the three rivers — Mekong, Bassac, Sap. Life on the river. Many of the people along the river live in these boats. Others in stilt houses along the shore.

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From blue skies to dark clouds in seconds. The storm descended on us like a falcon after it’s prey. And as fast as it caught us, it left us with sunny skies and a rainbows promise.
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That first journey into Vietnam had me a little nervous. I was flying solo and blind. Just let out on a whim. I had visions of communist guards standing vigilant over the border keeping capitalists out and the poor Vietnamese in. The customs officials were dour little men vigilant over their papers. As far as keeping people in or out, they were concerned only that you had the proper stamp on the proper form and make sure you pay the border tax of 1,500 Viet Dong. About 13 Cents. The Vietnamese that I met seemed quite content in their conservative capitalist-socialist society and I enjoyed my stay so much that I returned a week later. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as the locals still defiantly refer to it is a vibrant city. It’s growing by leaps and bounds. There is a “new city” with million dollar homes. There is a fairly large ex-pat community near the Rex Hotel and Ho Chi Minh Park. The club scene is fairly raucous. You can have a great time in Saigon.

Before you get to the glorious, rockin’ funhouse that is Saigon, you have to take a 6 hour mini-bus ride. I didn’t know this was the case. Seems they glossed over this part of the torture trail. We land at Chau Doc. I get off the boat with absolutely no idea what to do next. All I have is a backpack and a Khmer shoulder bag. I just take off in the general direction of the city figuring that eventually I will see something that I recognize. I need to change money (USD to Vietnamese Dong). Eventually, I make out what is a bank. It’s got an ATM machine in front of it that only works with Vietnamese cards. That doesn’t do me a whole lot of good. I walk inside and thankfully one of the managers speaks English. I get my money exchanged and ask for directions to a decent hotel. When I walk outside, I find that one of the Sampan drivers had followed me. He tells me that he’ll take me to a good Hotel. I tell him ok. But first, I want a beer.

Next stop after the hotel is a massage. I tell the sampan dude to take me to get a massage. We drive down the road. He takes me into a store front with about ten girls sitting around. None of them taller than 5’0. One of them takes me to a semi-enclosed cubicle like space and motions for me to take off my clothes. Once I’ve got my clothes off and a towel on and am laying on the table. She jumps up on the table and on top of me and proceeds to give me the best massage I have ever had….with her feet. This little girl who looked like an angel and couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds walked up and down my body and had me in heaven for a good hour. All at the cost of 5 dollars US.

The next morning, I get up. Get dressed and wait for my bus to pick me up and take me to Saigon. I should have seen it coming when they gave me a motion sickness bag. I swear driving on those roads was more turbulent than flying through a hurricane at tree top level in a Huey swiflty running out of fuel. The elderly lady seated next to me spent most of the trip empty her stomach into her baggy. Finally, I handed her mine. She smiled sweetly and proceeded to fill it as well. By the time we were finished with that leg of the trip, the poor woman had to be dehydrated. We stop for lunch about two hours from the city. After lunch, we proceed on our journey.

Two hours later, we’re in the city at the central bus station. Everyone and their Momma has the perfect place for me to stay. Cheap cheap, too. Luckily, I’ve already arranged for nice digs. I jump on a moto-taxi and 20 minutes later, I”m at Thi Sach Street in front of the Mogambo Hotel. Lani greets me and it’s like coming home. Lani is like a Vietnamese mother. Telling me how to stay out of trouble. Teasing me about the girls in the bar.

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One place that every tourist in Saigon hits is Apocalypse Now. The infamous club named after the the movie. Every time I go there, I get a few drinks and then call Terry, Jonathan and Rick. It’s such a surreal experience. After you get your fill in Apocalypse Now, head out to the backpaker district and hang out til the sun comes up at the Go 2 Bar. It’s got a bar downstairs and a dance floor on the second floor. Third floor is the bathrooms and a balcony where you can watch all the drunks down on the street. There is also a Heart of Darkness Bar in Saigon. But it’s a teen hangout. Mostly ex-pat kids. The real Heart of Darkness [club] is in Phnom Penh. Complete with gunfights, gangsters and rich Khmer socialites out for a night on the town. Be advised. Don’t mix it up with the Khmer kids in Phnom Penh. You might get the upper hand at first, but, they’ll come back with guns blazing. I mixed it up with one fella in Siem Reap. The girl I was with made me leave the club. Telling me over and over. “He bring dangerous.”

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Of course, there are always the children. And if you aren’t overly sensitive, you can always put on your Vietnamese shirt and cruise down the Mekong Delta looking every bit the tourist. I’ve been to Saigon 3 times. Each time was as fun as the last. Each an adventure rife with memories.

Three little Cham girls selling waffle cakes in the Mekong

Three beautiful little Vietnamese girls in a Cham Muslim ethnic minority village down in the Mekong Delta. They created a little jingle to sell their waffle cakes. They sold me. lol I didn’t want the waffle cakes though. I just wanted to record their little jingle. They sang it for me on digi-cam so I gave them each a dollar. They sold a bunch of waffles while I was there. Mostly because they were so cute.

The little boy waving from the boat is from a small fishing village outside of Chau Doc. Many of the folks around there live in those boats year round. Imagine that…