Exploring An Giang Province

Chau Doc Travel Blog

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Oh my, what a country.

Imagine if, on the site of a famous battlefield in the US, commemorating the deaths of several thousand of our countrymen, they decided to erect a firing range in which you could fire the weapons with which said countrymen fought.

Tasteless? Well, think about it some. If any single country deserves to call the shots on what's "tasteless" in regard to the Vietnam-American War, it's Vietnam. And Vietnam has decreed that a firing range with AK-47s is perfectly tasteful.

Now, for a confession that will shock many of you - I was curious. I was sooo curious. It was cheap. I am traveling with a man who juggles college liberal and gun-nut in an unnervingly effective manner. I had to try it. I tried it. I told Eric that I had never fired a gun before, and he said, "well, then, let's start you on the ground floor with an AK." I am still a pacifist - if anything, this has completely re-affirmed my desire to never shoot one of those things for real.

That being said..... pulling a trigger and hearing a very loud "BANG" is fun. It's a guy thing. And, folks, picture a couple Vietnamese guys and a couple American guys sitting around shooting at stationary, non-living objects and sharing a laugh. That's what you call an improvement over 35 years ago. A HUGE frikkin' improvement.

Now, a word about the battlefield - it is called Tuc Dup Hill - Two Million Dollar Hill, I believe - because, word has it, that's the amount the Americans spent on trying to take it. The hill rules. It's a giant pile of rocks with trees and vines growing over them. Absolutely gorgeous to look upon and HELLA fun to climb on, historical significance aside. The locals, along with the VC geurillas, hid in a giant network of natural caves within the hill, which are still completely preserved, with boardwalks. The caves are a joy to explore, as are the rocks that hide them. Our guides led us on a mad scramble up the hill atop the rocks - quite easy and thrilling, though I can imagine it would not be if someone were shooting at us.

And if the shooting range were insufficient, the crocodile pit was what really put this over even Japan's lovely Gero Onsen Village as the "most tacky, surreal and hilarious tourist trap I have ever encountered". The concept is simple - you pay about 2000 dong - 10 cents or so - and get a big hunk of meat attached to a long pole, which you then use to tease the crocodiles kept in the pool below. Of course, there is also a roller coaster, a concrete lake with swan boats, and an ostrich farm.

The real highlights of yesterday, though, came on the way back to town when we stopped by a bunch of Cambodian pagodas - we were, after all, right near the border with Cambodia. These are not ancient or shiny-new pagodas - these are functional pagodas, with no-less-magnificent artwork on them. Eric would take lots of pictures and I'd play with the kids that, I'm gonna guess, go to school at them. I'd always show the kids my camera and the best thing to do ever would be take a picture of them, and then show them the picture. The second they saw it, they'd just explode in a chorus of delighted shrieking. Adorable.

Anyway, this is getting to be a bit long, and I have to go.
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Chau Doc
photo by: Riz7