The beautiful mountainous region of Dalat is a welcome break from the heat. The air is cool and damp, not unlike Seattle. Crumbing French architecture lends a wonderful euro feel to the region.
This fellow was begging for money in the bar we were sitting in. My brother offered him a beer instead of cash. He eagerly accepted, in fact, he chugged an entire pint in one gulp. He slammed the cup down and started shouting, Number ONE, Number ONE. Then the manager kicked him out.
On arriving in Saigon, you must first fish your luggage out of a massive pile. Returning ex-patriots are bringing home the bacon from points west. Televisions, stereos, cases of beef stock. Of course, my bag was at the bottom.

The hussle and bussle of the city works at a wonderfully human pace. Very few cars clog the streets. Swarming scooters fight with cyclo drivers at each intersection. Amazingly, it seems to work without the benefit of traffic signals or officers.

Saigon is still pretty small by Asian city standards. Communist red tape has put a damper on development. There still is no McDonalds! Many high rise ventures were stalled by the Asian economic downturn. Without the lure of shopping malls and televisions, poor country folk do not flock to the cities as they do in other developing countries. Only about two percent of the population lives in urban areas. This is a wonderful and rare benefit for tourists. There is very little crime or homelessness and no shanty towns.
We called this guy The Professor because he sold us the Vietnam News every day. My brother noticed that every issue had one decidedly anti-American article in it.
If I could invent one device for the people of Vietnam, it would be a solar powered cooler. Refrigeration is a majorly lacking, and given the people's fondness for Pate and other meats, it should be a concern. Most vendors purchase a block of ice for their spoilables, however, by midday, what was once pate is a plate of gooey meat cake swimming in a puddle surrounded by a cloud of flies.
Outside of Saigon are the famous Cu-Chi (Koo Chee) tunnels. The Vietnamese referred to this area as the Iron Triangle during the war. Cu-Chi takes a triangular shape when viewed from the air and the ground is very solid, like iron. The Viet Cong took advantage of the areas proximity to Saigon and built a vast network of tunnels stretching to the Cambodian border. Tourists are encouraged to crawl through a small widened section of tunnel about an hour north of the city. The best part of the tour was a propaganda film from the late seventies which quotes The American devil rained bombs and poison on the innocent people of Cu Chi.

Escaping the heat and activity of Saigon, my brother and I travelled to Dalat. This cool mountainous region is a great place to rent mountain bikes and explore the countryside. This is the best way to meet locals. One fellow pulled his motorcycle over to talk with us at length about his experience in the war. He was a former South Vietnamese officer who had flown fighter bombers for the Americans. He told us that after the war he was put in a horrific re-education camp for ten years. Now, his opportunities are limited, he cannot find a job, the secret police watch him and he is treated as an outcast. Why, he asked, did America pull out? Why, did you leave me? I could only shrug and try to explain that Americans were divided over the war. However, I still felt guilty even though I was only five at the time.