Like a Brit visiting … most places

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Vietnam 2013
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Let’s talk briefly about The War. As a bleeding-heart left-wing America-apologist, I can’t help but experience Hanoi with a tinge of guilt. I know that that’s reductionist and inarticulate – and hey, at least we’re not the French – but it’s the truth. I obviously lack any memory of the Vietnam war, and don’t have any immediate family experiences, so I have had limited exposure to the American “side” of the conflict (in a personal sense). So, anyways, sorry about that. But again, at least we’re not the French.

I’m still pondering my thoughts on Hanoi – it’s the most wonderful chaos. For now, I’ll stick with a “travel-log” of the day.

To briefly back up, airport transfer went swell yesterday. I’m glad I “splurged” on the advance reservation with yourlocalbooking as it meant there was a nice fellow waiting at the airport with my name on a sign. My hotel, Indochina Gold is firmly in the “fine for me” category – there’s great wifi, a decent shower, and cheap rates.

Today started with a bowl of pho bo. As any good day should. I experienced a bit of food-anxiety today – not fear of eating something odd, but fear of “wasting” a meal on something less than awesome. I think I did ok though, and the pho was certainly a winner.

After breakfast, I took a wander around Hoan Kiem and visited Ngoc Son Temple. It’s a small temple on an island in the lake – a gorgeous setting, and a chance to pause.

From there, I went to the Museum of Vietnamese History. Not an upbeat place – Vietnamese history basically consisting of conflict, suffering, more conflict, and eventually some more suffering.

Some snacking ensued – the Vietnamese have a wide variety of items I would term “donut-adjacent.” As a connoisseur, it’s important that I sample them all.

The afternoon involved a visit to the Military History Museum, which presents Vietnamese military achievements with a lot of pride. The most striking bit is the statue made from parts of downed American aircraft.

Next up was an ill-advised lap of West Lake. Ill-advised in the sense that I did not take note of the circumference of said lake. Did I mention it was 112 degrees today? And humid? It was a pleasant enough walk, but by mile 12 or so, I was contemplating whether there would have been better ways to spend the day.

Finally, after some more delicious food, I attended a performance of the water puppet theatre. It was … a thing. Definitely a thing.

So, day one in Hanoi. Loud, quiet. Crazy, calm. Delicious, delicious. Sleep now, and perhaps more articulate thoughts tomorrow.

One thought on “Like a Brit visiting … most places

  • Susan McFadden May 17, 2013 at 2:04 am Reply

    I hardly know where to begin to talk about my feelings about the Vietnam War. I vividly remember arguing with your grandfather about this in spring, 1963, when I was in the 9th grade. I had a progressive social studies teacher who described what was happening there. Grandpa was still buying the domino theory.

    Years later, I talked to Grandpa the night President Johnson announced he wouldn’t run for another term. I also talked to him the night of Kent State. He was shattered by then by the corruption and lies that had led to so many deaths in Vietnam.

    Someday, I hope you’ll read They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss. He recounts a day of a gruesome ambush of our guys in Vietnam at the same time the National Guard was marching on the UW campus to put down anti-war protests.

    I wept the night President Obama was elected in 2008, because it was the first time in my entire life I felt proud of my country. Coming in my teen and young adult years, the wretched war poisoned any sense I might have had of “love of country” or patriotism. And of course, that was bookended by the assassinations and Watergate.

    The course of the life Dad and I have led was very much shaped by the war. He thought he would get a deferment for teaching English to high school students, but then got a low draft number in the lottery. I will never forget that night of the draft lottery. Then Nixon ended teaching deferments and we were off to New Jersey where Drew functioned like a sanctuary, since seminary was the only way you could get a deferment in 1970 other than physical/mental illnesses.

    I lost several friends from high school in the war, and later wept as I found their names on the memorial in Washington, DC. I feel tremendous regret and sadness for the way our soldiers were treated when they returned; many are still suffering. I have friends who have succeeded in their adult lives, but their service in Vietnam still casts a shadow over them. One friend now is battling a rare cancer because of Agent Orange.

    I can’t write any more about this tonight. All these many years later, it still evokes raw emotions. I guess we’ve never really talked about this. I hope we can talk a lot about it when you get home.

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