Day 15 – Ky Anh to Vinh – 125KM

28 04 2012

Considering the general ‘grittiness’ of the hotel in Ky Anh, and the fact that I slept underneath the mosquito net..the night was quite restful. Toan described the hotel as “Designed By Farmers”. Obviously there is an Vietnamese architectural or interior design skill that I am not aware of.  I got at least six hours which completely recharged the batteries. It was needed as I was really struggling yesterday.

We visited the same place to eat as last night. True enough to form I got insulted again, so I am glad to see last night wasn’t an isolated incident ! Leaving behind the dismal town of Ky Anh we continued northwards on National Highway 1. The traffic was not as busy, but there was still a heady mix of trucks and mini buses screaming towards me. I think that I am becoming immune to such things as the don’t seem to bother me now. There are still a couple of “Asian-isms” that I don’t get. 1. The shared glass/cup – go to a table or water dispenser and there is a “universal glass” for all to use. 2. Spitting – Asian’s don’t seem to ming hawking back and spitting out. It’s a horrendous sound especially first thing in the morning.

Our first stop was to the Dong Loc three way crossroads. I was not expecting what I saw. Leagues of tourists at the site, all had come to pay homage to the ten Vietnamese girls whom had laid down their lives for Vietnam. Dong Loc was an important supply route for the Viet Cong from the north to the south of Vietnam linking into the Ho Chi Minh Road The Americans bombed the road many times. Each time, a dedicated team of young female workers would repair the road in order to let the supply trucks through. One fateful afternoon, the ten girls heard the approaching B52’s and hid in a bomb crater. A large bomb landed close and killed them. Their death embodied the struggle of the Viet Cong against the Americans, and they entered into martyrdom. The Dong Loc crossroads became a shrine for the girls. Vietnamese from all over the country come to Dong Loc to give thanks to the girls and how they laid down their lives for the country. Toan told me the story and I could see how proud he was.

I explored the site on my own, walking around some superb pieces of art work.

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My feet took me round to the temple and monument. Large numbers of tourists were offering gifts to the graves of the girls. The girls who were killed before they could experience love, or the joy of childbirth. I looked at each of the graves, I wanted to take pictures but it just didn’t feel right. The youngest was 17 and oldest was 24. War is an ugly thing. I walked around to the pagoda were numbers of people were praying. The incense was thick in the air, it’s sweet aroma and smoke cloying and making my eyes smart. A very friendly guide told me that I could take pictures.

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Something felt very wrong about me being there. Here was I, wearing an Aeropostale t-shirt saying NYC whilst drinking a Pepsi. I felt like I represented all that the girls had died against. A sobering feeling indeed.

We left Dong Loc making our way towards the city of Vinh. The next stop was Huong Dich, another major site in the Viet Cong struggle against the Americans. It was here that the Viet Cong Generals planned their attacks of Khe Sanh. In addition it was an ancient Buddhist temple, first enshrined in 1282. Toan had said “Take plenty of water, it’s not close”. He was not kidding…

The 7km walk ranged from hilly roads to walking over streams, up and down huge rocks. It was an arduous climb especially in the afternoon sun. I was soaked in sweat, my poor Irish skin not coping so well with the heat and humidity. Still it was beautiful. Hardly seeing anyone and only hearing the crickets and cicadas, and the occasional bird. I reached a marker stone that said “Houng Dich 1750m”. I hoped it was incorrect as I had already been walking for ages. I met a couple walking back who simply said “Take Picture” ! So I did :

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A cable car had just been built to convey people to the top of mountain. I was reticent to pay the 100000 Dong until I saw another marker stone saying ‘Houng Dich 1000m’. I looked up, it was a very long and rocky path up. I yielded and paid. The cable car ride was eerie. It’s actually the first time I have been in one. Virtually silently gliding up the hill, it provided some amazing views.

My heart sunk as I exited the cable car and saw more stairs, then the inevitable gauntlet of vendors. Gliding past them like a cable car, I reached the foot steps of the pagoda. I slowly made my way up them. A young monk saw me struggling and told me to sit. I took his advice and rested my weary frame. He waited for me at the top of stairs and in pigeon English told me about the pagoda’s history. He lit incense for me to place and to pray. I had a conversation with the ever compassionate Buddha, so I hope he listened.

The monk seemed to so happy to spend time with me. He took pictures of me, and even wanted to buy my sunglasses ! I would have just given them to him, but I needed them for the journey. Perhaps I will send them in the post when I am finished ?

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It was getting close to dusk, so I bid my farewells to the monk and walked off. He took pity on me and thrust packets of cookies into my hands ! So off I walked on the return route, armed with my monk biscuits. Apart from a group of local guys asking me to go swimming with them, which was inviting given the copious amounts of water I was leaking the walk back was uneventful. There was still the blissful silence though.

Dusk was beginning to fall so we got back onto the madness of National Highway 1 towards Vinh. Tonight’s hotel is considerably better, it doesn’t come with free mould.

Things that I have seen carried on a motorbike today :-

1. A Pig
2. A Buffalo
3. An Inflateable Goose (lost but later recovered)

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