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World Trip, 2004 - Return to Vietnam, Rick Swan

I left Vietnam in July, 1970 that story is elsewhere on this site.  This is a better story.  Some of you will find this page before the trip page; click thru to include India, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Feb 22, 2004

Five minutes before departure from Hong Kong, we're handed a SARS warning and questionnaire. "You may be quarantined if you have any of these symptoms: blah, blah, blah." Lots of grumbling from passengers, as in "What can we do now, cancel our trip?" but I forge on.

Two and one-half hours later and eighteen hours out of San Francisco I land in the wonder of Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon aka Tan San Nhat Airbase amid what X-gamers would think are inverted half-pipes and Vietnam vets recall as fortified concrete hangers for fighter jets. Yep, they're still here. No jets stored within - the jets of today's "Socialist Republic of Vietnam" are on display on the other side of the airport as we taxi past.

I just flew into Ton San Nhat Airbase once - April, 1970 - to see my adopted dad, Bob Rose. Then I saw U.S. military aircraft. I know we also could have seen Pan American contract 707s ferrying us in and out of country. Today the field contains a myriad of livery colors for jets from around the world. I'm very pleased the world has found Vietnam and found it to be a better place than we left it.

Entering customs I see an infrared picture of myself. These folks are serious. If you filled out your SARS quarantine form with, ah, no sir, "I don't have a temperature above 101 degrees F" they would have napped you anyway. I saw no one napped.

Outside baggage, I'm met by Lam, age 26, who will be my guide for the afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City. Lam graduated with a teaching degree from one of the Universities in Mekong Delta. One of? You mean there are many? Yep. Each has a particular flavor just as in the colleges of our universities in the U.S.

Lam is pretty easy to talk with; as I ask him for more Vietnamese, he wants to improve his English. We help each other. Lam's farming grown and bred father was in the "American" war for one month; then he purposely cut off his thumb and got a discharge. Sounds like some of the actions a few took in the U.S. in order to not go to the "Vietnam" war.