Friday, June 11, 2010

Dadlands: Da Nang

Our chosen vehicle for the ride north was something the tour companies call an "open bus": it hits all the tourist towns up and down the coast, and you can jump off anywhere and then get back on a day or two later without having to buy a new ticket. They also feature "sleeper" buses with tiers of beds, which is a pretty exciting concept when you've been trying to sleep on regular buses. We figured this was not only a pretty cheap option ($25 from Saigon to Hue) but would assure us a decent, non-overcrowded, non-smoky bus.

In the tour company's defense I will say this: only once did the bus actually break down in the middle of the highway and have to be pushed by the passengers until the engine cranked. But in many other ways, the open bus was a disappointment. On the sleeper from Nha Trang to Da Nang, they stuffed in so many passengers that several people ended up sleeping in the aisles. And when I woke up in the middle of the night, someone was sneaking a smoke. Grrr!

Anyhow, eventually we got to Da Nang: a no-nonsense city often overshadowed by its more scenic neighbors, Hue and Hoi An. Still, it has pleasant sea breezes and some cool old buildings.

If you get up early enough, you can stroll around town and see people exercising: some doing circuits on their bicycles, others walking or stretching. These two women were playing badminton on a side street. I think this must be a political thing; in the USSR, too, everyone was encouraged to exercise in the morning.

Dad didn't write too much about Da Nang, except for one story about a USA troupe which I will devote a full post to later. He also mentions making a supply drop from air for the first time. As the war went on, North Vietnam was getting increasingly effective anti-aircraft weapons, and the Air Force began dropping loads rather than expose its planes to harm by landing and offloading cargo.

It was quite an experience. There are supposed to be a bunch of panels laid out on the ground to help you line up and to be used as timing points. I never did see any of them. I think the wind must have blown them away. I knew we were lined up about right and fortunately Glen Burnett saw some guy holding up a piece of one panel so he was able to give me directions on the run in. Glenn did a beautiful job of directing us in. Of the three airplanes that made drops, ours was by far the best score.

I remember that a tune kept running through my mind which I finally recognized as the theme from "12 O'Clock High." That struck me as being absolutely absurd.  -- October 18, Tuy Hoa

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