Looking out the window.

by James Murtaugh, May 11, 2002 | Destinations: Vietnam / Ho Chi Minh City

May, 2000.

I am flying into Saigon from Thailand. Looking out the window as we land I see the old American revetments for their war planes. I wonder if it is a mistake to return here. I am ready for my bags to be searched and a hard time by Vietnamese Customs. But customs is easy. No smiles but no trouble.

Our tour guide and a full size bus waits for us.As the bags are loaded we see the red flags and the yellow star. To us in our teenage years it was the flag of the enemy.I just seemed so strange.

As our bus leaves our guide tells us about Saigon,how many people and so on. He is a very smart young man. As the trip go's on we will like him a lot. He explains about Vietnam traffic. 'In England they drive on the left, in America the right. In Vietnam we drive in the middle of the road." In America we call it chicken. Two cars go straight at each other. The first car to veer off is chicken.

Going into Saigon there are many motorbikes,trucks and bikes.Cars are rare. The most people on a motorbike that I saw on this trip was a family of eight! The people here are on the move. Motorbikes have givin the Vietnamese a new found freedom to travel. At night family and teenagers ride the streets just for fun. I'd like to advise their government to put shows on T.V. that people don't want to miss. It's the only way to keep them home.

Everywhere we go people see the big bus going by and give us a big hello and a smile. Pool tables are everywhere, even on boats. The children are the most important part of the trip. During the war I saw them work but not play. I saw the sores on their bodies, the flys in their eyes, their large bellys because of malnutrition. Looking out the window I see children playing, dressed well, feed well and very happy. Kids that have never seen war and hunger. They really touch my heart and give me joy.

My tour guide talks on about Vietnamese history but I look out the window at all the shades of green. Vietnam is more beautiful than ever. Every plant known to man seems to be growing here. Just so much food! I want to remember each moment.

Our bus stops on a side road in Quang Tri. Standing alone by the bus I see two Vietnamese Army trucks, loaded with troops lumbering down route 1. I am not happy to see them in their pith helmets and green uniforms. They are the enemy and I, I am eighteen again and it is 1967.

The Army trucks turn onto the road where I'm standing. As the second truck passes me a soldier waves and smiles at me. What can I do? I smile and wave back. With that every soldier stands up and waves and smiles and they keep doing it until I can't see them anymore.The war is over....

Out the window I see the Vietnamese Army working on the roads in many places. Something to be proud of when they are old.

When you look out the window at Vietnam today there is just so much hope for a country that had so little in the past. It is a trip worth every penny.

Jim Murtaugh

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