For us middle aged folks, the name Vietnam conjures up images of the Vietnam war as it has been portrayed in movies and the media. If you ask a Vietnamese citizen about the Vietnam War, they will quickly correct you that it is not the Vietnam War but rather the ‘American War’, after all it was the Vietnamese who won the war.
It has been 33 years since the end of the war, and Vietnam has emerged from it’s war torn tatters to become a thriving nation in south East Asia. But what of the war, with all the horrific destruction, mindless killing and displaced populations? What do the people of Vietnam think and feel about the war and the people that they fought against?
The war has been preserved throughout Vietnam in various ways. In Ho Chi Minh City (know to locals as Saigon) one of the most prevalent tourist attractions is the War Remnants Museum. As a person drives through the country, there are many government erected war memorials and grave yards that extol the sacrifices that were made in winning the war. In Vinh Moc or Cu Chi a person can visit the tunnels that were dug by the North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong to hide themselves from the American forces during the war but what of the damage and material of war?
The old saying “time heals all wounds” can be said of the carnage of war. A tour of the former demilitarized zone between what used to be South and North Vietnam demonstrates this adage. The combat base and airfield at Khe Sanh has become a coffee plantation. The only indication of the airfield and battle that took place here is the small museum with its two old helicopters. Nature is slowly overcoming the insult of the Agent Orange defoliant that was sprayed over large parts of the country and trees are growing back although these toxic chemicals have left a human legacy of horrendous birth defects that will last for decades. The materials of war have disappeared but they still kill and maim those poor unfortunates who happened to pick up live unexploded ordinances in their search for scrap metal. Perhaps the most telling item was walking through the city of Hue, with its floating gardens within the former imperial citadel where a small aluminum boat was pulled up along the side of the street. On close examination it was obvious that this boat was made from the fuselage of some old aircraft: swords to plows.
The war seems to have little effect on the people of Vietnam today, after all over 60 % of the population was born after the war. In conversations with a number of Vietnamese the same general themes were repeated. Yes they were well versed in the history of the ‘American War’, and they laid the blame for the war on the American Government. Yet, there is no outward resentment against the soldiers or country they fought against three decades earlier. Perhaps this is a reflection of the Buddhist origins of Vietnam and the Buddhist philosophy that people should live in the present on not dwell on the past or future. The War is in the past and we all inhabit the present together.
Bissky Dziadyk Family
Travelling the world as a family since 2008.
In September 2008 our family embarked on a four month journey through South East Asia. Traveling with a child who uses a wheelchair presented its challenges, but following the Mekong River through China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam with a wheelchair was truly an adventure.
When we move beyond our fears and embrace our dreams, the Universe has an odd way of not only supporting us but giving us more opportunities than we ever imagined. Embarking on a journey with an open heart we can not help but be changed forever by the experience. Indeed it would be a waste to return untouched in the spiritual realm.
September: China (Beijing, Xi’an,Kunming, Yuanyang)
October: Northern Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay) and
Laos (Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane)
November: Southern Vietnam (Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta)
December: Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampot and Sihanoukville).