crankwalk SuperDork
3/31/18 4:21 p.m.

Just got back from a few weeks in Vietnam which inadvertently turned in to a fun game of recreating pictures my dad took 50 years ago to the date. That wasn't really the point of the visit but it was pretty neat to see how far the country has come. He died in 1992 and at that point had no interest in going back but these days a lot of veterans are returning. I guess I just wanted to see it for myself to visualize the landscape and drink cheap beer.



They say their communist but they really aren't in most ways. The economy is pretty wide open. Huge wealth gap. 70% Buddhist, 20% Catholic but officially they aren't religious. They are just going through the used up old communist platitudes and propaganda on billboards but are all trying to get a piece of the pie like everybody else.


Beautiful country, great food and excellent weather this time of year. We went from top to bottom in a few weeks. Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Phoung Na, Quang Tri, Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the Mekong Delta. We took planes, trains and automobiles and occasionally just walked a long way.


Starting out in Hanoi:




Capitalism successfully installed:



At the Maison prison aka the Hanoi Hilton:

It's actually kind of tiny with little courtyards right in downtown Hanoi. Used by the French , then during the Vietnam war, literally centuries of E36 M3ty things went down there. It was sort of over the top propaganda stuff but worth seeing. 


The market:


My wife getting schooled on how to best haggle for the French press she was eyeing.


Ninh Binh province aka Halong Bay on land. Super super gorgeous. Excellent hiking and friendly people.

Cue the Beach Boys "Little Honda". This was a nice little classic but most everybody rides 50cc scooters with little regard to traffic laws or side"walks".

This shot was from the passenger seat of a car. They really just get it where they fit in.


Ha Long Bay:



Down to Phoung Na Caves:


Vinh Moc tunnels:

Makeshift hospitals as people lived down here for years:

The newsboard for the community:


This brings us to the DMZ and south....

crankwalk SuperDork
3/31/18 4:34 p.m.

Coming out of Phoung Na in to Quang Tri:

My dad at a funeral for a South Vietnamese soldier 50 years ago in the same farmland:


Thien Mu pagoda in Hue.


Also of interest is the monk's car who lived here and lit himself on fire in 1963. He drove from Hue to Saigon in his Austin and self immolated himself then the fellows monks moved his car back to the monastery in Hue where it sits as a shrine to him to this day.



Down to My Son:


So. much. rice.

And on to Ho Chi Minh City:

Best store name ever:


Sweet Cruiser:

Machine shop in HCM:






crankwalk SuperDork
3/31/18 4:48 p.m.

And here are some of the pictures we recreated for fun:

Vietnam Airlines 1968:


Biking outside Hue:



Da Nang Beach 1968:


Back in the day near Phoung Na:


Jeeps in Hoi An:

Used as a rental now. Built Ford tough ;)

President Hotel in Saigon built for US troops didn't make it. It turned in to the projects after the war and got so bad they demolished it last year:


Even without sentimental reasons, Vietnam is a really fun country to check out if you are ever thinking about it.

Donebrokeit SuperDork
3/31/18 5:09 p.m.

Thanks for sharing your trip, looks very interesting.



irish44j UltimaDork
9/12/18 8:52 p.m.

Awesome. I was in Vietnam myself in April, so not long after you were. I was in Hanoi for a week on work-related travel, but had a good amount of time to explore the city. I actually stayed at the Melia, the hotel where that Rolls-Royce dealer is co-located (talk about a great hotel for $120 a night!!!). I went to the Hanoi Hilton as well and thought the same as you. Though I was surprised that there and the Military Museum are devoted almost entirely to hating centuries of Chinese/Mongol invaders and the decades of French occupation. There's really very little "historical hate" for the US, as all the locals seemed to have considered that war mostly just a blip on the radar and not a huge deal, compared with the French and Chinese.

I also thought it was funny at the Hanoi Hilton how they talked about how good the US prisoners had it, like it was just a "mandatory vacation spot" for them lol....though perhaps it was compared to how the French treated the Vietnamese prisoners they had there for decades before! Overall, I didn't sense any antagonism whatsoever against Americans, other than the guy trying to sell me a Zippo in the park, who thought I was Australian and gave me a better price "since I make the Americans pay more because of the war" haha....

I also agree, other than a lot of people in uniforms doing everything from parking Vespas to guarding hospitals, it didn't "feel" very Communist - mostly a bustling capitalist economy giving lip service to Communism and "the old ways." I really loved Hanoi though - I've been a lot of places in the world and Hanoi is definitely one of my "Top 5" cities for sheer "joi de vivre" so to say. 

We got down to Haiphong for a day (also work) and managed to drive down within sight of Halong Bay in the distance, but didn't have time on the trip to actually go there (which I very much regret, since I've always wanted to go). Oh well, maybe I'll get to go again someday.

very cool recreating the old photos, that's awesome :)


Also, our official ride while we were there was one of those sweet Land Cruiser Pradas :)

crankwalk SuperDork
9/13/18 12:26 p.m.

^Hanoi was so much better than Ho Chi Minh City in so many ways and it definitely surprised me since I guess I thought the south would be "better and more western friendly". If you can do Halong Bay do it. It's one of those places that is hyped up and you just know it isn't going to live up to it but it actually does. You need to go out on the boats and spend the night out there to really do it though since it's so big it's best to float out in the middle.


Hue was a close second behind Hanoi. Food was great and was probably the cleanest most modern city (proper).


A few times, I spoke a little German with street vendors who ran up to me just out of fatigue of haggling with them towards the end of the trip but the rest of the time I spoke English and didn't hide that we were American. The only time we had an issue was in Ho Chi Minh leaving the war museum where I was approached by a multiple amputee asking for money. I think he makes most of his money (all?) by finding guilt stricken Americans walking out and striking when the iron is hot so to speak. He asked where we were from and I told him the US and he plead his case. I injected enough money in to the Vietnamese economy in 3 weeks and tipped absolutely EVERYBODY that did anything for us extremely well. I just didn't like his style of aggressively targeting us so I didn't give him anything and he had some words. It sucks what happened over there but it sucked on both sides.




irish44j UltimaDork
9/13/18 6:10 p.m.

hah....I definitely played the "I'm Australian" card as much as I could. Most people there don't know all the accent differences anyhow. Yeah, Hanoi is much more Western expats....tons of Aussies, Brits, and Germans. My embassy officer said that Saigon and the south is much more oriented toward the Russian expats, and much poorer and dirtier. He actually didn't suggest to visit the south at all, but just to tour the north extensively.

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