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Saturday, 12 May 2007

Of tombs and death. Dalat: Vietnam

I used to do a lot of walking in Dalat. I've always been a great hiker and it was an ideal place and the climate was so much more agreable than Saigon. People thought I was either mad or that there was some sinister motive behind it. Half thought I was spying for the Viet Cong and the other half for the CIA. I was in our friend the colonel's office one day looking at his maps and he started giving me dirty looks.
In the morning at dawn I loved to go up a small hill where there was a tomb. It was for former emperor Bao Dai's mother if I remember correctly. Actually I think there were two so it might have been his maternal grand parent's. The tombs had some graffiti on them, typical of bored soldiers. It seemed an ideal place either to guard the approaches to Dalat or to launch an attack from. Perhaps that helped to give it a rather special atmosphere. It was absolutely quiet there. The only sound that of the tap tap tap of a stone mason in the distance. The bottom of the hill would be covered in mist as would most of the surrounding country and town.
KC had a cousin who was a lawyer by profession. He had spent seven years fighting with the Viet Minh against the French. He was also a prince of the true Nguyen dynasty I believe. Not the usurper Bao Dai. I never did find out how he combined the two functions. He had also been married to one of the most beautiful women in Vietnam. I knew the daughter quite well and became very fond of her. She would try to teach me Vietnamese and I would teach her English with much more success. She had rather a difficult life. Her mother had been very brutally murdered in Dalat. She used to show me photos of her in her album. She later went to the States to study and I lost contact, as I did with so many people.

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