Friday, May 6, 2016


Train Depot
We took the overnight train from Phan Rang-Thap Cham to Danang. I like to call it the "cockroach express", the train car was infested. We were in the regular seats, the uncomfortable kindWe decided not to get a sleeper compartment because they were tiny and you had to share the space with strangers and probably cockroachesThe last time I was in Vietnam I had to battle critters. On guard duty, which I pulled once a week, the bunkers had rats, poisonous centipedes and lots of mosquitoes to deal with. The bathrooms on the train were nasty and got progressively worse as the night went on. 
It was an excruciatingly long night of traveling. For the first couple of hours, when it was still light outside, Katie and I enjoyed watching the countryside roll by. The landscape looked like the Vietnam I remembered, acres of rice paddies with lush green mountains in the background. Missing were the thatched huts and small villages, replaced by substantial concrete houses, paved roads and small shops  
Katie, along with everyone else in our car, eventually fell asleep. That left just me and the cockroaches. Early in the morning, when it was still dark, a group of young men entered the train and came into our car. They were talking
and laughing, not seeming to care that everyone on the train was trying to sleep. They began playing cards in the back of the car and never bothered to lower their voices. When I stood up to stretch my legs, they all became quiet and looked up at me as if I might be some sort of authority who was going to come down on them. I smiled and gave them a friendly wave. They waved back and returned to their boisterous card game. I could not be mad at these young men who were trying to have a little fun. I was happy they were alive. During the war there weren't any young civilian men. They were all fighting and dying, for either the South or the North. After a couple of stops, the young men exited the train and we returned to the steady rhythmic sound of wheels on track. We were relieved to finally arrive in Danang at six am. 
Hotels along the Han river
Even though  my basecamp at LZ Bayonette was only about 60-70 miles south of Danang, I had only been there one time.  I flew out of the Airbase for my five days of R&R in Tai Pei, Taiwan. My flight was filled with American Marines from Khe Sanh. They told me about the conditions there, the almost constant shelling by the North Vietnamese and their having to live and crawl around in the mud. This was a rowdy bunch of guys and they were determined to have a good time in Tai Pei and I can't think of anyone who deserved it more. 
China Beach
Danang is Vietnam's third largest city with around 750,000 people. Our hotel was within walking distance of My Khe beach, the twenty mile long curved stretch of beautiful white sand that we used to call China Beach. Many US soldiers took in-country R&R there, but I don't think they would recognize the area today. Danang is on the way to becoming a premier tourist destination. Large hotels and resorts are popping
A community garden, one of many throughout the city
everywhere, especially near and along the beach. The Han River runs right through the center of town and both sides are being developed for tourists as well 
Dragon bridge across the Han river

If a friend was traveling to Southeast Asia, I would highly recommend a few days in Danang. The city is open and spread out, not nearly as hectic as Ho Chi Minh City or HanoiThe hotels and restaurants are good and the beach and mountains are beautiful. All over Vietnam the people were friendly and gracious and that was true for Danang as well. Also Hoi Anh is only about an hour'bus ride away, and one should not visit Vietnam without going to Hoi Anh, which was our next destination.  


  1. Thanks for sharing, Mike. Poignant juxtapositions of your former experiences and current ones...except for cockroaches. I'm looking forward to your return home.

  2. some of those stories remind me why I dont have a passport. See you soon.