Danang: "Totally Awesome"

July 25, 2003


Dear Family and Friends,

The flight from Nha Trang to Danang was uneventful. At the Danang airport the drivers persuade me to hire a taxi for the trip to Hoi An.


My very first stop is a music shop where I buy six CDs for sixty-five cents each. I hope they play.

We visit the local Caodai Temple, attractive, yet a distant second in size and beauty to the one I saw in Tay Ninh outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Dressed in long white robes, the priests welcome me, ask that I attend their prayer service, and encourage me to take pictures.

The next stop is the Champa Museum. The guidebook says, "The best sight in Danang. Founded in 1915, the open-air collection of Cham sculptures is the finest in the world. Many of the sandstone sculptures are breathtaking."

Hoi An: "Shirts"

July 26, 2003

Hoi An

At last Hoi An, a picturesque riverside town famous for its dozens of custom tailor shops. The driver brought me to a new hotel, with very comfortable guest rooms that surround an inviting swimming pool. The receptionist was apologetic when she quoted the rate of $15.00, including buffet breakfast.

Hue: "Muffins and Mausoleums"

Hue, Vietnam
July 29, 2003
Sunny, hot, breezy

Dear Family and Friends,

I am sitting at the Mai Huong Patisserie, a small sidewalk cafe near an intersection of the main street. I am watching an unending stream of incessantly beeping motorbikes; police officers with whistles stop speeders! I am enjoying my favorite - iced Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Deeelicious.

Ha Long Bay: "The Climax"

July 29, 2003
Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is the culmination of my three weeks in Vietnam, the "cross of the t and the dot on the i, the icing on the cake."


Sushma and Paawan, newlyweds from Mumbai (Bombay), were with me on the Hanoi city tour. They had reserved a car and driver for the three-hour drive to Ha Long City. They were booked on a luxury yacht for a two-day, one night cruise of Ha Long Bay. They invited me to join them. Cabins were available.

I knew it would be a splurge. I said "yes!"

Saigon: "Love and the American War"

In 2008, I was pleased to announce that "Love and the American War" was the very first of my travel essays to be published.  The essay below is included in a collection called To Vietnam With Love.  ThingsAsian Press.  2008. pp 93-96.

July 30, 2003


Dear Family and Friends,

My dear readers. You must be wondering, "Jan has traveled the length of Vietnam. He has extolled the physical beauty of the country and the wonderful people he has met. But nowhere has he mentioned the unmentionable." Stand by.

My tour outside of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) made two stops. The first was the Caodai Temple in Tay Ninh. The second was the Cu Chi Tunnels.

The Cu Chi Tunnels formed a network of military strongholds which held up to 16,000 Viet Cong for months at a time. Only 6000 survived the relentless bombing. Thousands of civilians died in the vicinity.

At Cu Chi, tourists crawl around the tunnels and then visit the adjacent museum. I politely declined. Instead, I sat at the nearby café and started to gather my thoughts for this letter.

I really cannot explain my reasoning; I cannot account for my emotions. Sometimes, I just "decline."