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Saturday, 22 September 2007

A very personal experience. Vietnam memories

I have just finished a post on Cyprus. I was there many years ago in the army when it was still a British colony. See article:
I noted that at that time there were no tourists on the island. It is possible there were some in Vietnam when I was there but I rather doubt it. There was a time when places were difficult to get to, journeys took days if not weeks. The world today is not free of war and there are still places that are somewhat hazardous. Still, e-mail and satellite telephones did not exist and when I went to Vietnam I said goodbye to my family for a long time. My first tour there was over two years. Of course the post still existed and people wrote letters. I had a feeling of truly being far away.
A comparison between Cyprus and Vietnam was that in the first I was in the army, subject to military discipline and virtually without freedom and therefore without contact with the local people. There were many GIs in Vietnam who were in a similar position. I though was in that rather envious position of living and working with the military but having almost complete freedom of movement which meant I could and did get to know the local people.
A tourist would appear to have little or no contact. I cannot help having this nagging feeling of being slightly irritated when I read articles explaining the delights of such and such a place for the benefit of encouraging the tourist trade. Places that I have known under other circumstances. I think one has a slightly jealous possesive feeling. I have been publishing a series of articles on various journeys I took by road. What could be a more banal title than, 'The Road from Saigon', or 'TheRoad from Vungtau to Saigon', or 'The Road to Dalat'. I don't doubt many tourists travel these roads everyday. I wonder how many realise the personal dramas played out on them. There were major battles of course in Saigon, and Hue and Quang Tri. How many remember An Loc? For me Cyprus was an experience. Life with my family in the Bahamas an agreable interlude. Life now in Orléans, France rather pleasant. Vietnam though was the ultimate experience. A very special and above all a personal one.

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