This is a sentimental journey back to Vietnam 50 years after I left in 1968. The last US military force left in 1973. The Paris Peace Settlement signed on Jan. 27, 1973 called for the withdrawal of US forces, limitation of forces on both North & South & commitment to peaceful re-unification,. The withdrawal of the US forces was completed on Mar.29, 1973. The US congress thereafter cut-off the funding for S. Vietnam. Unfortunately the peace talks between North & South failed & fighting resumed. The hapless South Vietnamese forces (ARVN) was overpowered by the superior North Vietnamese forces who still have support from their allies. Saigon fell on April 1975. (Two years after the US forces have already left). The country was tremendously devastated, but by the 1980's the Socialist government declared a policy of Social, Political & Economic reforms. Implemented economic de-regulation leading to a free market economy. There was liberalization & religious tolerance. They allowed private ownership & free enterprise. The unprecedented success of their reforms catapulted Vietnam into one of the highest & fastest growing economies in the world. Indeed, on our visit, we found stunning landscape of progress. Modern skyscrapers dotted the cities of Saigon, Hanoi, Danang etc., Numerous luxury shopping & a bunch of happy people. We were lucky to arrive during the jovial TET celebrations in the 2nd week of Feb. & witnessed this grand celebration w/ people dressed to their best, promenading in the parks, non-stop shopping and devotees worshipping in churches, temples, mosques etc.,w/ their newly gained freedom to worship. We visited the fascinating Cu Chi tunnels & took a glimpse of the subterranean life of the N. Vietnamese (NV) & Viet Cong (VC) fighters during the war. Life was horrendous in this honeycombed tunnels. The fortitude & tenacity of the NV & VC spirit is symbolized by the Cu Chi Tunnel. We cruised the Mekong Delta river. The "Rice Bowl" of Vietnam. We paid a visit to Binh Duong province the previous sleepy hometown of Hai. It is unrecognizable as it is now highly urbanized & industrialized. Motorized traffic consist of mostly motorbikes. There are over 8 million motorbikes in Saigon alone. It is the primary form of transportation due to lack of public transportation & cost of cars are still,out of reach for many. With regards to the Vietnam war, the anti-war, anti-US press has painted that the US lost the war. How could that be when the US has already totally left 2 years before the NV military invaded in 1975. The US has completely withdrawn on March 29, 1973 in accordance to the Paris Peace settlement signed on Jan. 27, 1973. You could say that the S. Vietnamese forces (ARVN) lost the war. Nevertheless in the overall picture, to this day, the ASEAN nations has stayed free of communism because of the US commitment to S. Vietnam, without which, communism would have swept all the way to the Malacca straits of great strategic importance to the free world. So the US gov't containment policy fulfilled its objective in stopping the spread of communism in SE Asia. Today, Vietnam enjoys a robust economy and the "Tiger Economies" of the ASEAN nations continues to grow as well.
The spectacular mountain landscape scenery of south China can be viewed by cruising the Li Jiang River. The clusters of limestone Karst hill comes in varying odd shapes, angles, sizes w/ towering pinnacles, rounded hills, cone-shaped karst etc., giving a dramatic topography of unusual aesthetic quality. This phenomenal mountain formations in South China has been designated a World Heritage site. There are about 70,000 clusters of Karst Hills along & in both sides of the Li River. Karst are soluble rocks of limestones, dolomites, gypsum etc., though they may also contain resistant rocks such as quartzitesThis 52 mile stretch of the river from Guilin to Yangshuo has become a favorite tourist attraction.