HANOI, VIETNAM ó I knew I had to return to Vietnam. Why? I still donít know why. Itís just something the last few years that I knew I had to do.
I made it.
Iím finally here, and I'm not sure what all to expect.
I arrived in Hanoi this morning (Friday) at 1 a.m. It took about 30 hours of flying, and it began with a five-hour delay waiting for a plane in Dayton. When I think about the past few days, Iím simply amazed.
To get to Hanoi, we left Dayton, went to Newton, N.J., and then flew north, almost to the North Pole. We flew to Beijing, over Russia and stopped in Hong Kong. Then it was on to Saigon and Hanoi. It was cold when I left Dayton: Itís 80 degrees now, hot and humid in Hanoi. Itís Vietnam hot.
We took a walking tour of Hanoi today. Judging by the markets Iíve seen, the economy is doing well here.
The guide took us to the Red River and told us how they used to put American soldiers on the bridge, doing work detail. The U.S. planes would come to bomb the bridge but always backed off once they saw their fellow soldiers.
I think about that and cannot help but think how lucky I am. Life has been good to me; it really has.
People are very friendly here. Theyíre forgiving; thereís no animosity. Surprisingly to me, Iíve already met a lot of Americans. Iím also surprised I donít see any uniformed police, but you know theyíre around. You can feel it.
The streets are crowded, and boy do they love their scooters. There are no traffic lights, just scooters going in every direction non-stop. You have to quickly learn to walk like a Vietnamese so you donít get run over by a scooter. You quickly go where youíre going at a steady gait, no looking around, just walking with a purpose.
The hotel Iím in is absolutely gorgeous. I met the people with whom I will be grouped on the tours. There are 16 of them: All of them are Americans, and four are veterans. The other 12 are extremely wealthy and out to explore the world.
Saturday, we go to the prison where they kept John McCain. The Vietnam veterans know where Iím talking about. The Hanoi Hilton.
Sunday we spend the day in Hue. Lots of battles took place there, and Monday it is on to Da Nang. Thatís where I was in combat. It seems like yesterday I was a young kid tasting war there.
Tuesday will be in the seaport of Hoi An, and then Wednesday its off to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon. Iíll likely break away from the group there, get my own guide and go where I want to go.
Right now itís 1:30 a.m. Weíre 12 hours ahead of Lima. I have to be up at 6:30 a.m., and I canít sleep. All I slept is about three hours today. I think Iíll go for a walk. Maybe it wonít be so crowded.
Think about that.
Forty years ago, an American walking down the streets of Hanoi would be a dead American. Not today. Yeah, Iíll take a quick walk and then get some shut-eye.
Iíll speak with you guys Monday.