DA NANG, Vietnam — One of the more notable conversations I’ve had so far was with an older Vietnamese man while we were riding a bus. I asked him if they had free speech.
He smiled and said, “Yes. Here in Vietnam, a communist country, we have free speach, but after the speech, we no longer free.”
Here are some daily observations since you last heard from me:
Went to Ba Binh Square and visited Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.
I lined up with hundreds of Vietnamese and foreigners to wait there and see the body of Ho Chi Minh lying in state. It was well guarded inside and out. Not allowed to take pictures inside. The guards would make anyone remove their hands from their pockets and remove all headgear as a respect to their leader.
Everyone in Vietnam calls Ho Chi Minh "Uncle Ho." We saw the presidential palace where Ho Chi Minh lived. He lived on the grounds in a very simple house. We saw the One Pillar Pagoda.
After the mausoleum visit, we went by coach to visit the Hanoi Hi Hon (Prison) where American fliers were incarcerated. Saw a picture of John McCain when he was shot down and brought to the prison.
Departed Hanoi by plane and flew to Hue, the cultural center of Vietnam.
Hue was the capital of Vietnam from 1802-1945, where the last emperor abdicated to Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh made Hanoi the capital of Vietnam. We arrived at our hotel in Hue and took cyclos (three-wheeled bicycle taxis) to see the Citadel, the imperial city and the forbidden Purple House (Home of the Kings).
We then went to a Buddhist temple and saw the monks at work and prayer. We then took a riverboat and returned to hotel by way of the Perfume River.
Today we visited the tomb/mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc. Very beautiful area. We departed Hue and took a bus over the Hai Van Pass to Da Nang. There were many battles in Hue and the pass to Da Nang and in Da Nang. After 40-plus years you can sill see damage from artillery and bombs.
Most of the Vietnamese here (approximately 60 to 65 percent) were born after 1975. The war is their history. The average median age in Vietnam is 25 to 28 years old. They have been and are very respectful and courteous. The young Vietnamese people are call the New Vietnam because of their age and desires.
I certainly don’t know much about political climate, but the 60-plus generation of Vietnamese say that even though Vietnam is considered by the world to be communist, that's not completely true.
They say they are somewhere between communism and capitalism because of the young Vietnamese who want material things, prestige and the chance to let their ability flourish. At the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, there were about 42 to45 million people in Vietnam. Today, thereare approximately 90 million.
Lima veteran Ray Magnus