E-Travels With E.Trules.....easy riding the ho chi min trail ....S.E. Asia Travelogue, Borneo, Malaysia, Scandinavia

easy riding the ho chi min trail

may 28, 2000

greetings comrades,

i have been thinking of you all. some of you have gotten quite prolific, creative, and dare i say, verbose (2 sentences from doug warhit! 2 pages of questions from jack slater [answers forthcoming]). thank you. know that i have a shit-eating smile on my face picking up my mail in these small, sweltering vietnamese concrete establishments, thinking of you sipping your ice lemon tea on the patio or selling off another few shares on the nasdaq.

i'll bet you didn't know exactly how much you could fit on the back of a small honda motorbike. try a one thousand pound wild boar. or 3 members of your closest friends and family. or 50 kilos of harvested and husked rice tied up in a gigantic pink sack stitched closed with a 9 inch needle that looks like it could kill a man or two. or - what you might fit on the top of the local passing bus (not the tourist one with the broken air con): say - several flocks of geese, 6 motor bikes, 10 uprooted trees, a few hundred baskets, hoes, axes, a water buffalo or two, and 30-50 of your closest friends and family.

it's true. i've been on the ho chi min trail in the middle of the shockingly beautiful and verdantly green vietnamese central highlands, living with "minority people" (who the government is trying to contain and civilize) - learning incredibly simple things like how a silk worm makes silk (i have what looks like a styrofoam easter egg in my waist pack, waiting for it to hatch from larvae to butterfly). and how to make sugar cane into sugar, and weave baskets from bamboo, and what the difference is between white pepper and black, and -- that people in the countryside are even poorer than all the tourist-eating city dwellers, but they seem a lot happier - in that "simple" way that we over civilized folk and over educants can never know, but can occasionally recognize in others when we're taken far enough off the beaten path to see what it meant to be human at one moment long ago in historical time.

mr. duc

in addition, my guide, mr. duc (as in "duke") has given me a back-of- the-bike running commentary on life in vietnam for the last 50 amazing years. and as shocking and difficult and poor and war-torn as it has all been, one of the most surprising things to me - is the apparent "truth" we were fed in the 50s and 60s about negative communist propaganda. i mean, all the family-spying, brainwashing, party indoctrination, bureaucracy, and government control - seems to have been -- quite and absolutely true. public speaker bullhorns on every street, in every home, spitting out party doublespeak, punishment and "re-education" for every dissident or original thought or thinker. conformity, poverty, hardship, misery. did we really fight the good fight? did we really win? are the vietnamese people really happy to be immersed in the "privatization" of their country s(since '89). all answers apparently - affirmative - according to mr. duc, who was in the south vietnamese army, who escaped, was re-captured, put in a re-education camp where he was taught that a banana was a chili, and when he believed it, that the chili was a banana. it's not a pretty picture, folks, even for this anti-capitalistic wannabe ex-pat. these people wanna be like mike. their dream: to come to america. just like all dreams. like all dreamers. a better life.... for us and our children.

meanwhile, while i paid mr. duc fairly well for his motobike chauffeuring, his firsthand expertise and painful vietnamese education, i was also somewhat forlorn to let my personal man-servant/take-care-of-my-every-need/guide supreme - go after five days. i really wanted to bring him back to the states with me. alas, not knowing exactly how to do that -- getting back on the sweltering, broken-down viet touro-bus (w/o air con of course) for 12 hours on the rock 'n roll vietnamese biggest-vehicle-on-the-road-wins highway of life - was to say the least, a humbling experience.

i'm now in small time hoi an, buying 30 dollar suits, jackets, shirts, and tuxedos, like the good jewish prince i was taught to be. trying to figure out if i have what it takes to marry this perfectly sweeet and pure 24 year old vietnamese country girl who doesn't speak a word of english but who has a nice laugh, strong hands, a clever look, and a dream of bettering herself in amer-ika. whataya think? should i do it? meet the family? ask for her hand? pay for the wedding? and bring home a girl who's never been touched by a man before? believe me, i'm thinking about it.........

i'm sure you'll all let me know what to do.......

i remain, lost in 'nam--

your sight seer


ps. bob halliday -- did you track down my sandal in bangkok? please, for chrissake. it's hard enough here w/ 2 shoes, let alone 1 and a limp.