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The First Seventy Years: 135 - A Driver With A Death Wish

Eric Biddulph took a bus trip to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Eric’s book The First Seventy Years can be obtained for £10 by contacting http://mary@bike2.wanadoo.co.uk or telephoning 01484-658175.

All the cash raised by the book goes to a water aid project in Malawi.

I departed Dalat by bus on the last leg of the journey to Ho Chi Minh City. As we descended out of the mountains it became noticeably hotter once again. By the time I had been dropped off in the centre of the city it was noticeably humid. Booking into a hotel on Pham Ngu Lao I was pleased to get a decent air-conditioned room for US $10.

The city streets were full of school age children hawking cigarettes, newspapers and a wide range of souvenirs. I bought a copy of the book Sorrow of War from one of the boys. Written by a Vietnamese soldier from the north it describes life during the American War. Highly acclaimed for its graphic detail of the horrors experienced by the Vietnamese people whether civilians or combatants.

On 30 April 1975 the North Vietnamese Army entered the city and raced to the palace located near the centre. The leading tank smashed through the gates in the full glare of TV cameras, raced up the drive; an officer ran up the stairs of the palace to the roof; replaced the South Vietnamese flag with that from the North. The war was at an end. Such an historic event necessitated a visit. Later in the day I met two Americans from North Dakota. A lively discussion ensued about the war and its impact upon them. As if to emphasise how small our world has become they had a friend living in Marsden, a mere ten kilometres from me and they also knew someone who had lived in Malawi.

I decided to book myself on a bus trip to the Mekong Delta, a two hours drive away. At a mere US $7 including meals it seemed a snip. Our driver had a death wish judging by the manner in which he approached his job. Sitting immediately in front of me was an American with his teenage daughter, age about fifteen. Quite a chatty guy he preferred to lean back to face me and so avoid looking ahead and witnessing the heart stopping antics of our driver.

He told me that he had two adopted Vietnamese children already and was in the country to take a third one back to the USA. He apparently educated all his children at home. He did not approve of the underlying philosophy of the education process in his country, or at least in his state. As the conversation continued this appeared to translate into a perceived absence of adequate religious input in the curriculum.

I began to realise where he was coming from; the fundamentalist religious right. This was confirmed when he told me that he held guns in his house. According to him those states which permitted the holding of firearms with few restrictions experienced a lower level of criminal activity than those enforcing varying degrees of control. I was sceptical of this simplistic rationalisation but I made no comment. His philosophy of life was already so powerfully entrenched there appeared to be little point in challenging it.


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