We woke up to the sun rising over the horizon in the South China Sea (known as the East Vietnam Sea to Vietnamese) bright and early. Since we weren’t leaving until late morning, we had plenty of time to enjoy the warm water with the stunning Vietnamese coast as our backdrop. Departing the beautiful beach resort at Sa Huynh, we were bound for a town 180 kilometers north called Hoi An. Along the way, we stopped for coffee and a lunch at a few local spots off of Highway 1 to take a break from the rough road and our bus seats and even got a special surprise from our tour guide Touc.
The bus stopped off on the side of the road in the middle of some rice fields, and he led us down a small path through the fields, were we met a local man riding a water buffalo. At this point, the class knew exactly what
the surprise was: a ride on the large bovid. Everyone was ecstatic and in no time we were all taking turns cruising down the path back to the bus with big smiles on our faces.
Though we had a lot of fun, the most significant part of this day consisted of Mike’s narration of the Duc Pho and Mo Duc areas, which is where he spent a lot of his time in the war. He explained that the Montezuma and Liz army bases were set up not too far off the highway, but as we drove through these places, not even a hint of US military presence would ever let one know there was a war here. In that way, this trip continues to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear the person accounts of someone who was there, even as that point in history gets more covered up with time. Mike even pointed out the beach where he and his fellow soldiers had Thanksgiving dinner in 1969 and pointed out Que Son, where he spent over a week camping out in the mountains. We could almost hear the relief in his voice when he shared with us the day he hopped on his last helicopter ride to head back to the States. Paralleling Mike’s trip in the 60s with ours is truly mind blowing, as those were surely different times.
In the late afternoon, we arrived in Hoi An to settle into our hotel for the night and departed soon enough for another delicious meal on the rice fields. Before returning to our rooms, we were able to walk around the downtown area of Hoi An to explore all the
small shops and restaurants, as the town is popular among tourists coming to Vietnam. As a result, it had a more European aesthetic to it and was bustling with many different travelers into the night.