This post begins my summary of the three weeks I spent traveling in Vietnam last February with two Table Tennis friends – one who grew up there and one expert player from California. The trip was an amazing introduction to a beautiful country with wonderful people. Unlike the “Vietnam War” imagery that still haunts most of us in the USA, the “new” Vietnam is teaming with energy and enthusiasm as the economy blossoms and relations with the rest of the world improve. Some would say that Vietnam is not yet ready for “prime time” in terms of the tourism amenities (for example a boat much like ours sunk in Halong Bay during our trip, killing several tourists), but I’d encourage all but the faint of heart to venture into this amazing country.
Here, in Sa Dec near the Mekong River, we sampled fruits I’d never seen before that we bought on the street from the vendors.
Sa Dec is not on most tourism itineraries, making my California friend and I something of celebrities there as we walked along with kids yelled “hello, hello!” or coming up to practice their very spotty English, now required in most Vietnamese grade schools. As we found throughout the country the people throughout Vietnam were both warm and friendly, and the war that figures so prominently in American memories seemed almost like a historical footnote to most of the people here. More on that American war history later when we visit the “Hanoi Hilton” in Hanoi and the “War Crimes Room” of the Presidential Palace Museum in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City.