Friday, December 12, 2008

Slowing down

We've been in Hue the last two days and tonight we will be taking the overnight train to Hanoi. From then on, we will be jetting around and that will make the second half of the trip that much more manageable or less taxing.

Today we wandered the streets of Hue, and visited the market, which was a bit grungier and smellier than the ones in Dalat and Hoi An. There has been an odd feeling that nothing is happening in Hue, that there aren't many people which is a strange sensation considering that its population is much much greater than Dalat or Hoi An. It might be a matter of there not being a downtowncore to the place that people congregate to. Hard to say. The market's grunge left me with the feeling that it was for people who were less well off. We wandered around the Citadel a bit as well and strolled up and down the river.

The DMZ yesterday was interesting. The tour, however, was not as revealing as we would have liked. We visited a tunnelcomplex, which was an interesting highlight but the other sites are overgrown now. The frustrating thing was to drive by countless scenes of farm life and only have them blur by the window. The tourism industry is in a state of flux as a large number of players get involved and shake out what will become of "the industry."

Other thoughts...

There is little to get people here singing to themselves. If people are working, idling a way a moment, anything, there seems to be a song on people's lips. Not just humming, but song. There are several people who have been talking about Lionel Richie and his song "Hello." (I hear he has a good voice and a good future ahead of him.) Meanwhile, I have Abba's "Happy New Year" (forgot it existed) and "Casablanca stuck in my head. As much as I might say about having an iPod right now it is good that music still as a communal component to it. I think that kind of spirit is what hashelped this country over the last 50-100 years in the face of all it has encountered. A last reference to the war before I close. I happened to be reading a book called "Voltaire's Bastards" yesterday - that last book that one might grab off the shelf for the road - and found a number of interesting references to Robert McNamara's role in the Vietnam War as the US Secretary of Defence. In short, he implemented an approach to military staff training that was similar to those used in industry (when he worked at Ford) and it effectively discouraged the leading officers from making the sacrifices necessary to win a war.

PS: I've been struggling with the similarities between "sorry" in Japanese (Gomen) and "thank you" in Vietnamese (Gaam ern).

A demain.