February 21st, 2006 – by: Stormcrow
A fishing boat waiting for the crew to wake up.
What a nice night sleep in our luxurious hotel room! Because we arrived quite late last night we leave an hour later than initially planned, so there’s time to take it easy. Breakfast is very nice, I still love the Pho, and afterwards we have some time left to have a look on the beach in front of the hotel. Trudy is adressed by a man who is in his fifties, but who looks a lot younger. He is very friendly and wants to practice his English, so he says. We are a little suspicious, because so far, people who wanted to practice their English have allways tried to talk us out of some money in one way or another. We’ve experienced this in several countries and it is a pitty that this makes us weary to talk to people who actually might want nothing more than a chat.
After the man has told us how he believes reincarnation works, he says goodbye and he continues his jog. Just off shore a fishing boat seems ready to set sail again, but all is quiet on board and the crew appear to be sound asleep. A man is reading his newspaper in his cyclo on the side of the road. All in all a peacefull scene.
Before going to work a man should read his paper.
We leave at exactly 8.30 am and drive for allmost two and a half hours, before stopping at a little factory where flour is made from manyok (cassava). The roots are dried next to the road, ground into flour, which is further dried in large flat bowls made of palm leaves. The flour is used in cookies, cassava crackers and many more delicious snacks.
Drying the manyok flour in the sun.
On the other side of the road lies the railroad track going all the way from Hanoi to Saigon and vice versa. It’s a single track, so trains moving in opposite directions have to wait for each other on predestined places, making the trip take much more time. We will be following this track loyally and we will cross it several times before reaching Hoi An. We stop once more for lunch and then we drive on to reach My Lai around 3.30 pm. My Lai is also known as Son My and is the village where on March 16 in 1968 one of the most unbelievable dramas of the Vietnam war took place. In the early morning of that day a unit of the American army entered the village and started killing everyone present, from infants to pensioners.
The villagers were accused of supporting the Vietcong by giving them food and therefor the top brass gave the order to destroy the settlement. 504 people were murdered, many of them driven into an irrigation ditch and shot with machine guns at point blank range. We are told that it took months for the smell of the corpses to fade from the location. When people finally dared to go to the village, the bodies were burried in bomb craters, because there simply weren’t enough people to dig graves. The lady showing us around is a decendant of one of the families that were killed in My Lai and she tells her story with a tremble in her voice as if she could start crying any second now. The only reason she does this job is that she hopes that, by making people aware, something like this will never happen again anywhere in the world. When we finally get to the irrigation ditch where so many were shot, the woman averts her face, hiding that she is crying.
The memorial at My Lai depicting villagers of all ages.
Trudy notices anyhow and gives her a hanky, but the damage is done and more people in our party start shedding some tears. After the tour we’ve got some time to explore the place on our own and take some pictures. The village has been rebuilt exactly as it was in the days after the slaying, except that now everything is made of concrete. Carcasses of shot cows, burnt down houses, even the path next to the irrigation ditch including footprints of little children, all made to last for generations to come. On witness to the massacre still lives: a palm tree with bullet holes still showing on its trunk (38 years later!!). To end the visit to the village we go to the museum next door that houses materials and surplusses of US GI’s, maquettes and all the pictures that were made of the massacre. Again not for the faint of heart.
The reconstructed ruins, including a concrete cow carcass.
The day has allmost come to an end when we reach Hoi An and we agree with Caroline to go into the city to have dinner later on, but first we check out the rooms.
There’s no reason to complain, except for the creaking door, but that’ll be more a nuisance to our neighbours than to us. Our hotel lies on the bank of the river and to go to the city centre we have to cross the bridge that is only a number of metres away. The town turns out to be a tourist centre, cramped with shops, the majority of them selling custom-made clothing. Caroline is thrilled and starts a shopping spree that’ll take every free minute she has. The prices are a joke here, so every woman that likes shopping will say she is doing the right thing. In spite of this I can talk the ladies in to joining me for a hot meal. After dinner the shopping goes on, but when the clock strikes ten, the female shop owners have drained my life energy with their sales talks and all I want to do is go back to the hotel. There we arrange a Xe Om and a Xe Honda for tomorrow and then we’re off to our rooms. When I’m lying in my bed after a refreshing shower, I still here the voices in my head: “No espensive, ve’y cheap!”, “Beautiful, good fab’ic!”.......
The irrigation ditch, where dozens were gunned down.