Nhon, Tet 2001
again Im out at the train station queuing up with bazillions of off Tet holiday travelers, all
of us with the same goal of booking a seat on the next train heading north. The concept of first come first serve, orderly
lined up is lost on many of my fellow travelers. As Im elbows out
of the way by a little lady, a third older than me, six inches shorter and half my guirth and weight. I claw my way through the throng to have the ticket window folks tell me no seat,
come back tomorrow. Three days in a row this has been repeated. I walk away making a silent vow that by hook ot
crook Ill get me a seat on tomorrows outbound train. Im not sure how to do crook so that leaves hook. Hook it is and on my return to Qui Nhon I quickly hook the night security guard for
a early morning (really early,5:00) train station trip and the back of his motorbike and for my stand in for a ticket on that
mornings train. Anyway, I hope that is what we agree too as my Vietnamese is
zilch, and his English is only slightky better. Success. Three hours later I''m
stretched out on my hard sleeper bunk chugging on to Hue. The train is packed,.The condustor and his helpers line up little
plastic stools down the isles to seat the over flow, within an hour Ive gained three or four people seating
against me on my bunk, as I pretend to sleep. The bunks were laid out, three on each side of the cabin, with the top one at
least six foot off the floor. So its understandable why everyone
got so attached to my lower bunk.
Its interesting how intuitive some Vietnamese are, not one person with in my eye sight
speaks any English, all the station announcements crackle out in Vietnamese and Im worried Ill miss my stop. Not to worry, just before the train arrived at the stop, there is frenzy of movement
as my backpack is pulled out of its storage spot and my pack and I are guided to the train door as it rolls to a stop in Hue. The window of my car is lined with smiling, waving Vietnamese as the train pulls away.
Ive made several trips over the Tet holiday and its always crazy, especially for foreigners. While my
Vietnamese friends seem to thrive on the craziness. This is the biggest
holiday in Vietnam, Vietnamese living over seas come home for the holiday. Mmany
businesses close and the employees head to the countyside to spend the holiday week with family or just travel. What looks like chaos to foreigners like me, is part of Tets fun for the Vietnamese. Reduced
hours or closed restaurants and stores, everything at premium prices is all ok its Tet!
getting away from Qui Nhon felt good, not that its a bad place, I had a nice room in a hotel on the beach and the friendly
managing director even gave me a special rate after I told her I was last there 33 years ago during the war. Funny as time passes, some memories get out of focus so I was there, not for the beach but to re visit
my old duty station at Phu Cat Air Base. Not surprising but disappointing nevertheless,
as it was hardly recognizable, except for the remnants of flight line, revetments. Of course, the gun towers, F100s,
Caribou cargo planes and the assortment of helicopters I remembered were long gone. The barracks (huts really) we lived in,
the gun tower at gate by the end of my hut, all the make shift beer bars constructed of bamboo and tin, with beaded entryways
off base by the main gate, of course gone also.. The makeshift road that ran by my hut where on many a morning I would a wake
to the rumbling of tanks is now a paved and well maintained motor way taking you directly to Qui Nhon. Maybe memories like
I have of my time are are meant to fade, so the experiences doesnt drag us down. Anyway, it was
good to be on my way again.