Return to Vietnam

Taking time for prayer and reflection

Posted April 29, 2014

A photograph of John McCain and others after their release from Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Clarence Williams)

We left Ho Chi Minh City at 7 a.m. and flew Vietnam Airlines northward. Two hours later, we touched down in Hanoi. I never thought that I would ever see the north, except if I was separated from my unit and captured.

As soon as we arrived, it was immediately obvious that Hanoi is not as developed as Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. The airport seem very old – no jet way and a terminal that needed to be updated. As we traveled into the city, I saw some construction, very little compared to Ho Chi Minh City. The city isn't as large and the people you encounter, perhaps, aren't as friendly. The street vendors, as in the south, tried to sell you Chinese knock-offs.

We had lunch at this wonderful place called KOTO, which is a restaurant whose purpose is to train disadvantage/at-risk people in the food service or hospitality field. It is like the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's Fisherman's Project that does similar work.

We then toured the Presidential Palace, where Ho Chi Minh refused to live. He stayed in a very modest two-room home where he died in 1967. We also visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the mausoleum where his body was embalmed and placed on display during the mornings. By the way, his body is shipped to Russia for a month each year to be treated as to preserve him – apparently like they do Lenin. We didn't get to see him due to a Vietnamese holiday.

One of the most impactful sites, several blocks from the compound in the middle of the city, is the "Hanoi Hilton." This is the name given to the prison where American POWs were tortured and imprisoned. We all recalled the picture of a wounded John McCain. This was a prison that was built by the French doing colonization.

I was so moved by the place and the evils that were inflicted on others throughout the years. It was necessary to get away from the group for reflection and prayer. We concluded the day with a water puppet show to brighten our spirits.


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About this Blog:

WRAL producer/director Clarence Williams is going back to Vietnam, where he served in the war 44 years ago. He'll blog about his experience during his 13-day trip and share stories and pictures along the way.