american war….. huh, what’s that?

One of the primary reasons I enjoy traveling is to get a different perspective from the world that I grew up in.  To learn about the others that we share the planet we live on and certainly play in their backcountry as much as I enjoy my own.  To understand other cultures and believe or not, there’s always another side to a story.

I chose Vietnam as a destination for several reasons.  The main reason was a National Geographic collection of photos that highlights the natural beauty of the caves in Vietnam.  I also wanted to get insight on history.  Some say learning history gives us the knowledge, not only to appreciate the good we’ve done but also learn from mistakes so to avoid repeating them.

What do you mean the “American” War…. I thought it was called the Vietnam War.  It was during a time when I was an adolescent and only grew to learn about it in history class.  Knowing that I was traveling to Vietnam, I watched additional documentaries to gain an “unbiased” opinion.  I assume we can generally agree that it was a very controversial military engagement.

What was I expecting when I came to Vietnam?  I really wanted to ask the hard questions to the minds of the locals.  Unintentionally, I arrived the day before Vietnam’s National Day.  The day celebrated for independence from the U.S.A and France.  The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is governed by a one party system led by the Communist Party of Vietnam.  Uhmm… obviously I don’t know everything below the surface of communism but it surely did not feel like what I believe most of us stereotypically associate with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Again, I’m not a political science major and there’s extremes to everything but what I saw was life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  I saw modernization, I saw capitalism, and I saw a celebrated and prideful people that is rich in history and culture.  Seemed quite disciplined actually with the presence of a few more military uniforms and signage with allegiances to Ho Chi Minh (a communist revolutionary leader).  Personally I prefer being surrounded by military uniforms. 🙂  I did hear a few comments that would lead you to believe that they don’t have quite the freedom of speech as we are accustomed to.

I visited Hỏa Lò Prison which was used during the war to hold American prisoners of war.  Watching and reading their documented footage of the war was very interesting to say the least.  I guess your perspective is quite different if another country came to yours and rolled in with a bombing campaign.  Why did we engage in the Vietnam War again?  Ah, yes… to stop the spread of Communism.  I kinda used an analogy if another country would have assisted the North or the South during the Civil War.  I hate hindsight but I don’t think it should have taken 17 years and cost 58,000+ U.S. casualties to figure .  I did a 3 day adventure in the jungles and caves of Phong Nga National Park.  We often whispered to each other and said… “could you imagine being a kid and dropped in to this god forsaken jungle, be shot at by someone you can’t see, in a place you couldn’t pick out on a map, try to clear an objective that didn’t quite have a goal, and then coming home without your countries support”.  For that, I say… this war sucked for all!!  Some quarreling between brothers and sisters need to just be handled on their own.  However, we’re in a much more complicated world than that with strategic alliances, big business, and the control of oil.  It was also enlightening talking to other travelers from all over the world about each others’ perceptions.  There were several occasions where multiple countries were represented and having a beer while talking international relations. It was cool!

I’ve been in Vietnam for almost a month now and have enjoyed my stay.  I thoroughly played in their backcountry,  visited several museums, saw many pagodas and temples, ate their awesome food, and befriended some locals as well as making many more connections from folks from all over the world.  Vietnam is a very beautiful country and very affordable and I highly recommend a visit if you are coming out to SE Asia.

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