Monday, July 29, 2013

R & R in Nha Trang

I would like welcome the first Chinese readers to GuerillaZ.
Ni Hao. 是

And a big thankyou to all readers of Nha Trang. The number of readers of this post is still ahead of any other post.


Cam on.


Nha Trang

R & R
This city was where US troops came on their rest days. For R & R. It is perfect for that. A commercial beach resort but somehow not really. There is plenty of available beach away from the sun loungers and umbrellas.

How Nha Trang makes me feel:

'Remember Me' by Tame Impala

US Troops arriving at Nha Trang, 1968

The year 1968 was a key year in the war against US forces. The turning point. The Tet offensive.
The brilliant general Võ Nguyên Giáp, also the victor at Dien Bien Phu (when the French were finally forced from Viet Nam) was assumed to be behind The Tet offensive but it was not the case. He disapproved of the plan.

For this blog it is the beginning of an enquiry into Vietnam and its quite particular lineage. Alongside China Vietnam has become the most interesting country I have visited. This blog will, in the coming weeks, attempt a basic understanding of certain evidence that contributes to this lineage. That is general enough an intention at this stage.  

Casualties of the Battle of Hue 1968

Don McCullin's only staged photograph

The photographer arranged this soldier's possessions around him.

Interfering with reality. Right or wrong?

US Casualties of the Tet Offensive

McCullin's Famous Vietnam War Image


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The Contemporary Face of Nha Trang

Cham women performing a ceremonial dance at Po Nagar. 

Beachside topiary maintained

Nha Trang contained large numbers of people who specialised in being relaxed. The hoteliers, the street vendors, the beach workers. I arrived out of season in late May. The main season is January to April. By May it is too hot but after the temperatures of Calcutta, late May sun here didn’t seem so extraordinary. It did mean that even the town beaches were quiet.

Po Nagar Towers with Blue Sky

Po Nagar
This was more of a tourist destination. It was a very pretty place. You could hire a guide who would take photos, talk you through it. The towers were okay. Imposing. Nice to see red brick again. Always a nice feature anywhere and in these ancient towers built by the Cham people. A group from Indonesia originally and very different in appearance from the Han Vietnamese ethnic group that makes up most of the population. The Cham are darker, no less attractive (as you can see in the image) and very sweet. Uninhibited and shy simultaneously.

Long Son Pagoda.

This beautiful pagoda was a short scooter ride inland. Personally I found the pagoda very beautiful even when it was closed. Which it was. Lunchtime. The Buddha at the top of the hill, pure white, huge, inspiring. A memorial to six monks who immolated themselves by fire as a protest against the US occupation during the war.

The highlight sitting in the café with iced sugarcane drink and iced coconut. It was extremely hot. No question. The café a tent café. Its owner, a middle-aged woman sinking beer after beer. Hard-faced, erubescent, burst capillaries. Beer after beer. And two male helpers, deeply tanned, friendly as only Vietnam people can be. All sat down with you.

All Together; squeezing the sugar cane

‘Vietnam people all together’ they said.

A lovely shock. In England that would never happen. Everyone together. People friendly and open.

‘All together.’

Music to my ears. As a half-Caribbean with a South American ancestry and a pathologically open person, misplaced in chilly England, I listen when people say things like this. Watch when they do what they say. What this trip is all about. Not staring at much photographed stacks of bricks.

Watch, sit, be, survey the hinterland of Nha Trang crinkling in the heat waves, below the mountains, consider my trip, more over than begun and yet only just begun.

Because I feel this land seeping into my blood like an elixir, a coordinate hardwired in. My own magnetic north. Except it’s south. And that was simply a metaphor for an exciting discovery that I’ll keep coming back to. Like Venezuela was a place to visit if I wanted to find people who looked like me. Vietnam is a place to go to find people who, quite often, seemed to behave like me.

Nha Trang Harbour

Nha Trang is a fun city. Stirring. Supersensory at night. Scorching hot during the day. With cinemas, bars, restaurants. The Viet movie I saw, in the home language, a fabulous comedy. Sharing the auditorium with a rat, another dimension to proceedings.

Try lying on a sunbed at night with a fruit juice, looking at the stars, your hotel 4 minutes away. No longer there I become relaxed just contemplating Nha Trang.

 One day I went to Vinpearl. This is a kind of funpark out on its own island. I was persuaded to go. So there I was up on the highest most frightening ride I have ever been on. I cursed until the moment I climbed out. There was an absurd amount of queuing to get off the island. But the longest cable car journey over water in the world makes you forget the wait.

Vogueing at Vinpearl

Everything is possible

Nha Trang Bay

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