On the Road in Hue

Riding motorbikes in Hue

Riding motorbikes in Hue

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Dressing up for a Royal dinner

Dressing up for a Royal dinner

Dragon boats in Hue

Dragon boats in Hue

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Restaurant in Logoon

Restaurant in Logoon

 

US Army helicopters from Vietnam War

US Army helicopters from Vietnam War

Peggy always making "old" friends

Peggy always making “old” friends

Last week Ho Chi Minh City shut down for the 40th year celebration of the end of the war, so the university was closed and we got out of town. We flew to Hue City for the first time and we were able to meet all the Fulbright students for dinner at a local Indian restaurant in the backpacker district. It was great to catch up with everyone about their experiences. The next day we took a tour on a dragon boat all day and went to several pagodas and Royal tombs in the countryside and wound up at the Citadel just before dark, it was a long day. Another day we went to the DMZ and toured the war sites including the Ho Chi Minh Trail (hwy 1 & 9) and Khe Sahn combat base. We met two 70 year old vets from Arizona who served there in the 101st Airborne. Their sons took them back for the first time for their birthdays. I thanked them for their service and told the sons to cherish the time with their fathers. Next we went to the Vihn Moc tunnel complex and went down three levels in the ground and came out in the jungle and walked out to the ocean. Wow! Our guide from Dong Ha town gave us the Viet Nam version of the war and an Austrailian vet on our van gave us the corrected version for balance. The guide told us that she uses her metal detector to look for bombs in the ground to make extra money on weekends. Yikes! Every family has lost members to unexploded ordinance. Quang Tri Province was one of the most heavily bombed regions during the war.  Later we took the bus four hours to Phong Nha to tour the caves there. The caves were recently discovered and now some are open for tours and are some of the largest in the world. We took a boat about a mile into Phong Nha cave which held a hospital inside during the war. Paradise cave required a long hike up the hill to the entrance. We then descended about a mile into the cave on a walkway, a pretty strenuous hike. It is hard to describe the enormous volume and massive formations inside. The last day Ben, the Australian owner of Phong Nha farm stay gave us a ride in his 1968 US Army jeep to the river to get a boat to the caves and gave us a history of the war and the rise of the new tourism in the area. It has been discovered by the backpackers but is still unknown to the outside world. Our best adventure was Dark Cave. I took a zip line across the river (my first time), Peggy took a kayak to the hidden entrance to the cave. I got banged up in the landing and knocked over the guy who was supposed to catch me. We then swam into the cave wearing a helmet, headlamp and life jacket.  Next we went into a narrow crevice and walked to a room with a mud bath about chest deep and turned off our lights. It was total darkness, pretty cool. We were all covered in mud. After walking back out to the main cave we swam further into the cave and then back out to the entrance. After a kayak trip back to the base many took another zip line to the middle of the river for a swim. What an adventure! We flew back completely exhausted to HCMC. Wow! Back to work. ABC has a new travel documentary about the Phong Nha caves if you want to check it out on the internet.

1968 US Army jeep

1968 US Army jeep

 

 

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