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2009 Biking Vietnam

The small town of Hoi An is a Unesco World Heritage site, and fabulous. From the mid-1500s, maritime trade with the Chinese, Japanese and Europeans flourished, with many Chinese and Japanese establishing permanent residences here. Undamaged during both the French and American wars, the old buildings are charming, the food to-die-for-doll, and the pace laid back. Nearby are the My Son Cham towers. The Cham empire flourished in central Vietnam during the 9th century. They were Hindus whose prosperity came from trade in sandalwood and slaves (and probably piracy). In the 1600s the majority of the Chams converted to Islam, influenced by Arab merchants who stopped along the Vietnam coast en route China. The area was annexed by the Vietnamese in 1720 and many Chams fled to Cambodia, Malaysia and China.

Hoi An
Hoi An
Hoi An
Hoi An
Hoi An Fujian Assembly Hall
Hoi An Fujian Assembly Hall
Hoi An Fujian Assembly Hall
Hoi An Fujian Assembly Hall
Hoi An
Hoi An
My Son Cham towers
My Son Cham towers
My Son Cham towers
My Son Cham towers

We visited the site of the My Lai massacre. On 16 March 1968, My Lai and three other hamlets considered Viet Cong* strongholds, were attacked by American troops without direct provocation. 504 unarmed men (mainly elderly), women and children were murdered (US sources say 347). The horrific events were documented by a military photographer. One soldier shot himself in the foot so as not to participate. My Lai fuelled anti-war protests in the US, with returning soldiers being called “Baby killers”, and protestors chanting: “Hey, hey LBJ (Lyndon B Johnson), how many kids did you kill today?” Lieutenant Calley was court-martialed, found guilty of the murder of 22 unarmed civilians, and sentenced to life in 1971; he was paroled in 1974. Of the 11 people working at the My Lai museum, 6 are survivors or children of survivors.

* The Viet Minh, headed by Ho Chi Minh, were the north Vietnamese nationalist / communist soldiers who fought against the Japanese during WW2 (with assistance from the OSS – the forerunner of the CIA) and against France for their independence. Viet Cong is a shortened version of the Vietnamese way of saying “Vietnamese communist”. It refers to the members of the National Liberation Force of Southern Vietnam (NLF) who fought against the Diem regime.

En route Quang Ngai
En route Quang Ngai
My Lai (Son My)
My Lai (Son My)
Quang Ngai
Quang Ngai

We took a bus south to Nha Trang (great town, great beach, great food) and another overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon). From there we cycled south and west into the Mekong delta to Chau Doc near the Cambodian border. At 4,350 km, the Mekong is the world's 12th-longest river and the 3rd-longest in Asia (after the Yangste and the Yellow). It originates on the Tibetan Plateau and runs through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Over 60 million people depend on the river and its tributaries for food, water and transport. The delta is Vietnam’s rice bowl, producing 38% of the annual food crop from 10% of the land mass. It is known as the Nine Dragons for the nine tributaries that flow into the South China Sea. The delta was once part of Cambodia. Ongoing border disputes led in the 1970s to an appalling massacre of Vietnamese villagers by the Khmer Rouge during which 3,157 men, women, and children were murdered at Ba Chuc (only 2 survivors). During their four years in power, the Khmer Rouge murdered 1 in 5 Cambodians but still found the time to launch several similar raids into Vietnamese territory. The Ba Chuc raid was one of the events that prompted the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978 and the overthrow of Pol Pot.

En route Nha Trang
En route Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Mytho Mekong Delta
Mytho Mekong Delta
Mytho Mekong Delta
Mytho Mekong Delta
Mytho Mekong Delta
Mytho Mekong Delta
En route Sa Dec Mekong Delta
En route Sa Dec Mekong Delta
En route Chau Doc
En route Chau Doc
En route Chau Doc
En route Chau Doc
En route Chau Doc
En route Chau Doc
Chau Doc
Chau Doc
Chau Doc
Chau Doc
Ba Chuc
Ba Chuc
Tay An pagoda
Tay An pagoda
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