"Vietnam of My Past" Quy Nhon by tpal

Quy Nhon Travel Guide: 16 reviews and 55 photos

In September 1968 I got the word that I had been dreading..."Your orders for Vietnam have come..."

As a 24 year old draftee this was not the kind of travel I was interested in, yet there it was...I was going.

I hesitated to write this page in Virtual Tourist but as I listed Vietnam as a visited country, I figured a little explanation was in order. I was pretty unhappy about the war and even more unhappy about my participation. I served as a Military Policeman with my responsibilities limited to basically being a gate guard for a junk yard outside Qui Nhon. Looking back, I now view my time there as a missed opportunity although it would have been difficult to have a "tourist" experience.

I've only been able to locate a few pictures...mainly because, at the time, I was more interested in forgetting rather than in capturing the moment. This is the only photo of me in the context of place and time...I refused to be photographed in uniform. The photo of the Vietnamese boy was taken outside my gate. Sadly, I can't remember his name but he was the closest thing to a friend I had from there. He would come everyday...just to hang out.

The passage below is excerpted from a letter I wrote home...apparently not in one of my more upbeat moments. The grammar is poor and parts are not politically correct for these times, but it may give you a sense of what I was thinking back then.

"This country, in parts, is really beautiful and, if it weren't for the war, I'm sure people would come just to vacation. But, the land is not what is important...it is the people.

Ever present is the barbed wire and, of course, the sandbags. This, right away, makes me feel very depressed. I wonder, often, if the people can remember the times before the wire and sandbags. I wonder if they can remember a time before the had to rely on the garbage dumps for their building materials.

As you drive down the rural road and look at the houses, you can only think (wrongly) that these people are ignorant and have no sense of pride in their homes. More often than not the houses look like they have exploded and when they fell back to earth in shambles, people merely crawled in under the debris and began to exist.

And then, you come to the town. If you drive through, quickly you might think that it's just like picture you have seen of old Hong Kong or some other oriental city...very crowded and very congested but, if look deeper, you can only become sick with depression.

I look at the shops. They many wares but they are covered with dust. Nobody buys...nobody can. They sell all sorts of goods but few things are actually sold.

But, of course, the most depressing thing is the people. What has happened to the people, especially the old. The old here are pathetically old. Few smile and most look as though they just don't understand..."

Vietnam, 1968

Thankfully, Vietnam, today, is a much different place...

  • Last visit to Quy Nhon: Apr 1968
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Comments (3)

  • iaint's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2007 at 6:51 AM

    good to read your thoughts on Vietnam; i was in HCM City in '92 when it was just opening up again; fascinating

  • Yogues's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2006 at 12:36 PM

    That's a fascinating excerpt from you 1968 letter - a very perceptive 24 year old. Hope you can find and post more pictures from you time in Vietnam.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Mar 22, 2006 at 5:35 AM

    A very moving page, Tom, and I know just how you felt. My year in Vietnam was 1964/65 (not as bad as 68, I'm sure), and I went back for a visit with my older son when he was 24, in 1995. Maybe I'll follow your example and do a VT page on it sometime.


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