Thứ Ba, 22 tháng 2, 2011


John Olsen called and asked if I would like to return to Vietnam to help place a memorial plaque on Hill 362.  This is like a bolt from the sky and I’m momentarily speechless. Finally, I say I will need to discuss it with my wife but I absolutely want to go. There was some talk about this kind of a trip at our last reunion.  A number of us discussed what a good idea it was.
We contacted many different people and tour agencies, trying to find the best combination for what we want.  Our goals are to do a lot of boots on the ground kind of touring, using vehicle transportation as little as possible, as well as to climb up Hill 362 one more time, for a memorial service.  We communicated with ex-pats who live there and many others who have visited recently.  We are getting all kinds of conflicting reports on what to expect from the people and the government.
We finally decide on working with Ngoc. She has outlined a very detailed trip for us.  There are multiple e-mail communications between John and Ngoc which he shares with all of us.   She says that there may be some difficulties about getting us to our hill 362, but she will do the best she can.  The trip may include taking motor scooters from DongHa as far into the jungle as possible and then walking the remainder of the way.
April 25, 2008
I cannot believe it’s time to go already.  I bought several new items to take.  Clothes for hiking in hot weather, some camping supplies, including a hammock to suspend between trees for sleeping. Some packaged food and a fair amount of endurance food such as Cliff Bars and Power Bars.  I borrowed a great back pack from my nephew and a fine stock of Dominican cigars.  None of us know what cigars will be available once we are in country.  I have packed and repacked so many times I don’t know what I should be taking any more.  I am more nervous about this than I was willing to admit.
Our flight to Chu Lai is on a Vietnam Airlines dual prop job and we fly low enough to get good views of the northern delta area around Saigon.  We land at ChuLai without problems and we are the only aircraft on the tarmac.  One of the reasons we wanted to land here is that we guarded this air strip as one of our duties for a while back in ’66.  There is much about ChuLai that seems like home.
Here is where we first meet Ngoc and Thuong.  They are waiting outside of the terminal at ChuLai holding a very large, red banner that reads “Welcome Back”.  We are all excited to meet.  Ngoc is talkative and has a great smile and wants to tell us all her plans.  She is very excited to meet us and can’t wait to get us started on our journey.Thuong seems somewhat aloof.  He does not smile as easily.
About 2 pm we bus out to a remote area to find hill 66 and some other areas.  We get off the bus and trek through back roads and trails. We pass an elementary school and the children inside are practicing an alphabet or numbers or something, in unison.  Soon, they become aware that we are outside and they all come out to see us.  Laughing and nearly all waving the peace sign at us, shouting in English “Hello!  How are you?”
Walking through small vills and hamlets give us a sense of remembrance.  Flashes of time gone by.  Not all of it is bad, but the memories surface with a heightened sense of awareness that comes from having been in a life and death struggle – a lesson that never leaves.  We remember hedge lines of cacti, palm and betel nut trees, walking along the elevated paths between rice paddies, and feeling over exposed and vulnerable.
As we walk from hamlet to hamlet, the word gets passed around about a group of Americans, and many of the villagers try to sneak peeks at us.  The children collect in groups of 5 or 6 and giggle at us.   This is a shy culture.  They have little expectation other than daily needs.  There are few demands on them.  Their civility is so deep, so basic.  It could not exist in the western world.  I can’t help but wonder how they can be so calm, so open, and so polite after 100 years of war.
Dong Ha
We are much farther inland now.  Vietnam is less than 50 miles wide here, near the old DMZ.  Looking out the window of the train as we leave the coastal area and head inland toward the gentle eastern slopes of the Annamese range and the jungle, I get to watch the slow change of vegetation and elevation.  It is an interesting mix of sand, swamp and lush vegetation rising to low mountain jungles.  This is such a beautiful country.  It feels so rich and deep.  It has kept a missing part of my soul for over 40 years.
to be continued…
Published on 11/15/08


A full day excursion was booked in for today. A people mover was hired, with driver, for USD100. The family’s own people mover took the rest of the group. It’s good to see how well this family is getting on together considering the fact that, even though they are related, most of the Australian group had not met the Laotian group before this trip. And as for me – I am getting to know most of both groups for the very first time! Working out who is who is all just too much for an outsider to take in within a day or two…and trying to remember all their names – well, that’s another problem. But I’m slowly coming to terms with it all. A day out like this, experiencing the countryside together should help us all to get to know each other a little better despite the language differences.... READ MORE


Our second destination in Phnom Penh is the Royal Palace.  This brings us as close as we will be to the king of Cambodia.  Visiting the Royal Palace is really a visit to a walled compound. The royals’ actual residence is off limits for obvious reasons.  From the outside, it looks very royal in a Khmer kind of way.  The current king is Norodom Sihamoni, 57, who has reigned since 2004.  Previous to this, he was a cultural ambassador to UNESCO, classical dance instructor, and oldest son of King Norodom Sihanouk. That last credential may be slightly more important than the other two.
Kings used to be chosen by Brahmans (wise men) who rated king candidates in ten categories.  Of course, in many cases it did not hurt the candidate’s chances if his father happened to be the current king.  If wise men choosing kings sounds archaic, consider that the US constitution orders pretty much the same procedure.  Voters do not vote for president. They vote their instructions to electoral voters, who vote the will of each state.  The idea was that electors could use their very sound judgment in choosing the president instead of leaving the decision to John Q. Gullible. We have pretty much gutted the system, so presidential candidates appeal to most of us but not necessarily the best of us.
Frankly, I am surprised that Cambodia still has either a Royal Palace or a king.  Start with the fact that the current king’s father, Norodom Sihanouk, abandoned the throne in 1955.  It was two years after the French had granted Cambodia its independence.  He preferred real political power to the safety of a neutered monarchy.  He became prime minister in elections that might not have been free or fair.
Twenty six years later the US was embroiled in the war next-door. Sihanouk figured the US was backing a loser.  He agreed to let the Viet Cong set up permanent training camps on the Cambodian side of the border.  He allowed Chinese arms to be shipped through Cambodia to the Viet Cong. He was in the ring with heavyweights and doing what he could to keep his country from being knocked out.
Cambodian General Lon Nol preferred the South Vietnamese side of the war.  Or maybe he liked the fact that supporting the South Vietnamese meant the US would support him in a coup.  When Sihanouk left town, Lon Nol seized control.  He would lose it five years later.  In the mean time, the exiled Sihanouk worked to get his job back.... READ MORE


In Hanoi, drinking coffee has become a culture. And if you visit this bustling and antique city, you should check out the street pavement coffee shop instead of drinking the same old same old coffee at your hotel or big restaurant to have an authentic taste of Hanoi coffee.
For many Hanoians, the most important factor of a café is not its luxuriousness but the quality of the product. Old people love cafés which have been around a long time, located on old streets or inside deep alleys. Office workers like cafes with romantic and quiet styles like those in Pho Co Quarter. Young people prefer the noisy and busy atmosphere of modern and luxury or pavement cafés.
There are so many famous coffee shops in Hanoi, like Nang café (6 Hang Bac), Nhan (39D1 Hang Hanh), Quat (Quan Thanh), Quynh (Bat Dan) to Giang (Hang Gai  Street) and Lam (60, 91 Nguyen Huu Huan)… Chairs are small, literally child-sized, and are sometimes made of blue plastic or painted wood. The tables are covered with glasses of ca phe den (black coffee) or ca phe sua da (iced coffee), which come with their own individual drip top. Not only just for connoisseurs, these places are idea for having gossip, meeting old friends, talking to pass  time of day, stealing precious moments for romantics.
* * *
A good example of the authentic Hanoi cafés is Hang Hanh, an atmospheric slender street veering off the city’s central Hoan Kiem Lake. In the afternoon, one may find himself inexplicably drawn to its’ wall-to-wall cafés which unfold below the shady boughs of leafy trees. Here, the annoying young and cool Vietnamese often sit and watch the world in front of their eyes. In late afternoon, with the last rays of sunshine, the place starts to buzz. At weekends, it is positively heaving with dating couples or gangs of youths desiring to be couples.
The next stop is Lam café – the perfect refuge for artists, poets and thespians to refresh their minds for creativeness. Situated on a shaded street, it will bring you the relaxed moments by the simple but artistically-decorated bamboo furniture, colorful framed oil paintings on the wall, ceiling fans as well as wooden table with a lot of tiny china teapots.
Down in a quiet side street, Quynh cafe‘s unassuming entrance is marked by a simple red lantern and ornate ironwork doors. Stepping inside, you not only see the bamboo furniture on tiled floor but also the tiny plants adorn wooden shuttered windows. Looking on damp-streaked walls, you may surprise with wooden arrows and trumpets, farming implements and ancient hunting pistols. Breathing the cool air from the antiquated table-fan, wallowing in soft French background music, you will desire to stay longer…

Thứ Ba, 15 tháng 2, 2011


Excerpted from To Cambodia With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur.
How do I describe my love of Cambodia? I’m not the world’s greatest wordsmith, so I’ll keep it simple. In 1994 I came to this country for five of the most exhilarating, nerve-jangling, and frightening days of my life-and that was it. I was hooked, completely, by a country and a people who’ve subsequently enriched my life to a degree I never thought possible. Those five days sparked a passion that grew with each of my annual visits, culminating in my migration here three years ago. I truly feel at home, I belong, I love every day of my life here, and I want to share my passion for this country with everyone. To Cambodia With Love is the perfect vehicle to do just that.
Fortunately, you don’t have to read my inadequate prose to understand the essence of Cambodia. I’ve joined forces with more than sixty contributors who know this country as well as I do-better in many instances-and who I’m convinced will inspire you to come and see for yourself why this beautiful land is so alluring. Whether it’s acclaimed memoirist Loung Ung eating chive rice cakes in the Russian Market inPhnom Penh, journalist Karen Coates exploring a bird sanctuary in Preah Vihear Province, pioneering guidebook author Ray Zepp riding a traditionalnorry along countryside railway tracks, or scholar and Angkor historian Dawn Rooney explaining her favorite time to visit Cambodia’s most celebrated temple, there are essays to feed your obsession if you’re already hooked, or spark a love that will continue to grow after your Cambodian baptism.
I urge you to discover and unearth Cambodia’s secrets, some of which you will find within these pages, others you must find for yourself-and you will, I assure you. Wander amongst the crowded maze of its markets, absorb the slow pace of village life in a rural landscape where few travelers venture, discover the unique lifestyle along the Mekong River, and above all, appreciate a culture and setting that spawned the incredible temples of Angkor, the jewel in Cambodia’s crown. Fifteen years ago, I was blessed to see the Angkor temples without the crowds, to experience sunrise over the pineapple towers of Angkor Wat in glorious solitude, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Though the secret of Angkor is now well and truly out in the open-it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world-there are still many opportunities to grasp your own special memories and lock them away forever, as I have … beginning with a few suggestions in this book.
I know it’s a bit of a tired cliché that it’s the people of this and that country that make it such a wonderful place, but the truth is, they really do. Cambodia is no different. After weathering decades of bloodshed and civil war, poverty, and instability, the Khmer have proved their incredible resilience, and their smile remains as bewitching as it has throughout time. The friendships I’ve developed over the years will last forever. No one will leave Cambodia without a large chunk of admiration and fondness for the people they encounter. You have my guarantee.
This is not a definitive guide to Cambodia. Far from it. It is about inspiration, discovery, sharing, and above all else, a love and a respect for a country that has changed my life forever, as I hope it will change yours.
Andy Brouwer
Editor, To Cambodia With Love

Central Highland Grand Trekking Tour

Day 1:
Meet on arrival at Tan Son Nhat Airport. Transfer to hotel. Lunch.
- Afternoon : City tour: Chinatown, Heavenly Lady Temple, Big Market. Dinner and entertainment. Overnight at HCMC.
Day 2:
Breakfast. 10:00 check out for flight to Pleiku (VN342 11:20-12:35).
Afternoon: City tour, "Bien Ho" Lake, Ethnic Culture Museum, shopping. Dinner and overnight at Pleiku.
Day 3:
Breakfast. Drive to Nhon Hoa Village (62 km from Pleiku). Enjoy riding elephant (3 hours) for a distance of 15 km for visiting Jarai villages, paddies, through a young forest, passing by la Lop stream, stop at la Nhi stream in jungle. Picnic lunch about 1 hour. Riding elephant back to Nhon Hoa village. Drive to visit a village of Plei Oi, King of Fire. Drive to Plei Bloum village (JARAI ethnic group), dinner and overnight at this village.
Day 4:
Breakfast. Walking to visit around the village about 1 hour. Leaving Bloum village for boating to Bahnar Honga village in 3 hours. Lunch. Trekking through a forest for a distance of 8 km to Yang Nam village (Bahnar ethnic group). Dinner and overnight at Yang Nam.
Day 5:
Breakfast. Trekking to YaMa for a distance of 10 km about 3 hours. Through a characteristic forest, fields on mountains. Picnic lunch at Chaam Yang Waterfall. Trekking back to Yang Nam. Joining the ethnic gong music, dinner with ethnic rice (rice put in the bamboo pipes and roasted) and special ethnic wine (a big jar containing wine put in the middle of the house on stilt and there are lots of pipes for tourists to drink wine simultaneously). .Overnight at Yang Nam village.
Day 6:
Walking left Yang Nam for Kon Chro about 14 km in 4 hours. Visiting along the roadsides : ethnic tombs, Rong house (Communal house of ethnic groups), Holang & Topong villages of Bahnar ethnic groups. Lunch at Kon Chro. Drive to Qui Nhon. Dinner and overnight at Qui Nhon.
Day 7:
Breakfast. Check out for driving to Nha Trang (250 km from Qui Nhon). Lunch. Visit Ponagar Cham Towers, Long Son Pagoda, Overlapping rocks. Sea-bathing. Dinner. Overnight at Nha Trang.
Day 8:
Breakfast. Sunbathing and boat trip to islands (Tri Nguyen aquarium, Mun, and Tam islands). Lunch on Tam island. Disembark. Exploring Oceanographic Institute. Overnight at Nha Trang.
Day 9:
At leisure, sea-bathing. Overnight at Nha Trang.
Day 10:
7:20 check out for flight to HCMC (VN451 8:35-9:25). On the way to hotel, pass by Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, Lam Son lacquer-ware shop. Lunch. Visit Reunification Palace, Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, pass by US Former Embassy, Historical Museum with water puppet show. Dinner on Saigon Floating Restaurant. Overnight at HCMC.
Day 11:
Breakfast. Departure to My Tho. Boat ride on the Mekong River and visit Thoi Son island-orchard, Vinh Trang Pagoda. Drive back to HCMC with stop over at Binh Tay Market, Thien Hau Temple. Overnight in HCMC.
Day 12:
Breakfast. Morning excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels. Return to HCMC. Evening: Check out and transfer to airport for departure.

Vietnam tour and Vietnam Hotel Vietnam hotel


Thousands of people annually gathered at the stadium of Do Son Town, Hai Phong City to witness the attractive performances of buffalos within the Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival, an outstanding and unique festival one in Vietnam which is associated with different legends.
Published: Wednesday, 05 January, 2011.
Objects of worship: Water Genie.
Time: the 9th day of the eighth lunar month.
Destination: Do Son Town, Hai Phong City.
Characteristics: Buffalo fighting, slaughtering buffalo to worship the genie.
One of the legends has it that long time ago, one Creator caused a severe drought. All living things looked toward the sea, praying for Creator’s favour. In the most miserable moment, suddenly, people saw two buffalos fighting fiercely on the wave crests and the rains started to pour down, revive all creature. The local people organise the fighting performance annually to show, not only their great gratitude for the Sir Buffalo but also their desire for the immortal vitality and strength of coastal people of Haiphong. Being held officially and annually on the ninth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar since the 18th century, the festival is a chance for local people to pray for prosperity and happiness.... Read More