Today, the tour took us to Hoi An, via Da Nang. We chose that over Hue, because I wanted to see the ancient village of Hoi An and not another city. Saigon and Hanoi are enough. I had no desire to see Da Nang, but it was part of the deal.
My last visit to Da Nang was in 1972. For some reason, I had to fly to the military base from our home base near Tuy Hoi; the reason is lost in space. I do recall that a major typhoon had just wrecked havoc on Vietnam. The Army had inherited an Air Force base, so our helicopters had been protected in concrete hangars. I recall the devastation at Da Nang, where many Vietnamese aircraft had not had the luxury of hangar safety. I recently scanned photos from that time, so I clearly recall aircraft on their side and destroyed buildings.
Da Nang today is being visited by a storm of foreign investment. High rise buildings, gated communities, golf course, hotels, and resorts blight an area once blighted by military sprawl. The only evidence of the US presence is the concrete and steel hangars, which once protected only the visitors and not home team aircraft.
The beach is just as nice as it has been for millennium. Miles of sand are virtually deserted, but manned life guard posts watch over the pristine sand and gentle surf at regular intervals. Once the buildings are completed and filled with foreigners, bathers will be safe.
The guide pointed out the modern hall, used for sport or culture, and explained that it used to be an aquatic center. No one used it, and the center was forced to close. Vietnamese people are not stupid. They refused to pay money to swim, when Da Nang offers miles swimming for free.
Guides in Saigon and again today stressed that foreigners are investing $280 billion in Vietnam, which perhaps explains the lack of improvements to US infrastructure. There is only so much capital in the world, and investor seem to prefer foreign shores.
Nha Trang has more personality than Da Nang, thanks to the French colonial period, but the beach is not as long. That said, I say more evidence of construction and planned sites in the north.
As we drove through town, I looked to the Annamese Mountains to the west and thought of the foolish war, which once raged. This beautiful country and its friendly people deserve the peace which followed their epic struggle with greed and/or stupid foreigners. Many will profit from the changes and many will enjoy little financial benefit, but all will enjoy less fear. And, all can enjoy a beautiful beach and good food.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.