I have long had a love affair with South East Asia but never made it to Vietnam until 2 years ago. So much of my childhood and adolescence seemed tied to this place. It was because of the Vietnam War (rightly referred to as the American War here) that I developed a sense of social awareness and the power of peaceful protest to change the world. This was the TV war.
I grew aware and concerned because of the nightly bombardment of horrifying images as our house rules changed and we were suddenly allowed to watch TV over dinner. I attended my first protest marches, against my father’s wishes, in high school carrying banners to bring the Aussie troops home. I had my first prolonged debates with my father on the topic of the consequences of war over the dinner table much to my mother’s distress. I worked with some of the children who were victims of Agent Orange in the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in my college years, trying to build their self-esteem through puppet plays as the talented Cranial-Facial Unit reconstructed their faces. I saw first hand the refugees and boat people arrive, again via TV. I taught their children at a time when our nation welcomed them. I believed we had a social conscience and a responsibility to try to right some of the wrong our involvement in the war had caused. I feel proud that a former governor of South Australia was once a boat person and of Vietnamese decent.
So why did I wait so long to see Vietnam with my own eyes? I don’t know. What I do know is this is an amazing country with chaotic traffic and calm temples, entrepreneurial drive and hard work, exotic and delicious food, time honoured traditions and modern outlooks, culture and communism. This is a photo essay of the beauty and bustle that has marked this second lazy stroll through just Ho Chi Min City, Hoi An and Hanoi.