Today was our longest day in the bus, as we went from the highlands of Dalat to the center of Saigon in the Mekong Delta. 307 kilometers, and the last thirty of it at five miles per hour in very crowded city traffic. Ten million people live in the greater Saigon area, and everyone of them seemed to be on a motorcycle or driving a big truck at about 3:30pm today.
The trip down from Dalat was memorable for me, not because there was anything familiar which I saw, but because I had been there before. At least a dozen times, I flew in a helicopter from Bien Hoa near Saigon up to a small base near Dalat to search for an aircraft part needed by an aircraft mechanic somewhere else in Vietnam. It was cherry duty to have to make that trip, and I'm sure that I probably could have found it any number of other places. But it was there, and Dalat was a cool small french colony in the Central Highlands. And it wasn't being attacked.
At an ethnic village along the way, Duc talked our way into a local one-room school where he took the class over for a round of "Simon says". It was heart-warming to watch kids who probably haven't seen many from beyond Vietnam gawk at their joy and excitement in being good at the new game.
Once before, on a long trip, we played a game to guess the exact time the bus arrives at the hotel. I won it because I guessed the latest time (30 minutes after the last time chosen). I figured the tour guides were going to be optimistic to keep us from getting to upset with the long bus ride. That, and the traffic is so dependent on things you can't control. This time, I thought I had the latest time also, almost an hour after the prediction of our guides. But Margaret chose two minutes later, and she took the prize. We haven't found out what our prizes are yet, but it's the thought that counts. And the principle. It'll be interesting if everyone fights for the latest time on the next round.
Tonight, we walked to a restaurant a few blocks away from our hotel, and did rather well at negotiating the evening motorbike mania. The food was cooked by us on barbecue grills in our table, from a selection that Bec chose. I was so glad to have my appetite back, and look forward to some healthy digestion.
To see the photos from the drive from Dalat, and of the evening dinner, click on: Tuesday, Feb22nd, Dalat To Saigon and Tuesday Dinner, Feb22nd, Saigon
ps. I really want to thank the person who commented today on my YouTube video featuring the photos I took in 1969-70 of children in Vietnam. The person wrote they were a child of a GI in Vietnam who left the country in 1987 for the U.S. The comments were a welcome reinforcement that I had accomplished something of value for kids like the writer, and had indeed spoken for them. I'm glad the home address in California was included, and I intend to try to make contact when I return.