Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

I turned twenty in Vietnam when I was here in 1969 and now, on the first of July of this year, I turned sixty. The picture to the right was taken of me up on the DMZ on my 20th birthday. I'm the guy sitting on the left. My sister sent me a birthday package complete with party hats, whistles, streamers, and a cake. Though the cake was green with mold by the time it got to me, we ate it anyway.

For my 60th birthday, Anh got a couple of friends together and we took a motorbike ride through the jungled mountains along the Laotian boarder on what is now called The Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was a magnificent two-day trip into a part of the country where few tourists venture.The Vietnamese have developed a network of roads through the mountainous areas and have appropriately called it The Ho Chi Minh Trail. Much of it actually is part of the old trail used by the North during the war and it runs through some of the most rugged and remote parts of Vietnam from Hanoi to the Delta in the south.

We took a 500km ride starting from Da Nang and heading west into the mountains. Once we got up close to the Laotian boarder, we headed north to the small town of A Lui in the Ashau Valley about 80 km west of Hue. This was some of the most spectacular scenery I have seen with dense jungle, rushing rivers and low hanging clouds as far as the eye could see.

About every twenty km or so we would pass through a village with straw huts and colorful people. Most of these villages have what is called a rung, a community house where the people gather for social events or official business.