Again we return to Vietnam to continue our quest for parts past. In the morning we were able to find ban me opla for breakfast before starting out on today’s adventure. Alex had recollections of flying inland over the Anh Lao River through a valley of the same name. In this case we did not have GPS coordinates, however, there was an area referred to as the fish hook that was a clue. Our destination for the morning was an area that was burned into Alex’s memory. Two Jagged karst mountains that stood alone in the middle of the river. Alex remembered it as an odd but beautiful site as he would fly off to his areas of conflict. With only instinct and luck guiding us we headed out to find a road that followed the river through the Anh Loa Valley. It was not difficult and before long we were travelling through some very beautiful countryside. Eventually we reached the town of Anh Lao and were faced with a choice. We had traveled quite a distance and we reached a fork in the waters. We decided to continue on and after about an hour more, we felt we might have made a mistake as the mountains seemed to be lessening. After returning to Anh Lao town, we took the fork and followed
another river…. Again, no luck, but we did however, see some spectacular countryside. We also discovered an area of granite boulders that were cordoned off with barbed wire and at one point, a soda bottle from an elevated stick. After a bit of speculation, we decided that we just had no clue what it was about and carried on. The hours counted down and I am sorry to
say that we were not able to locate the rock outcroppings that we were looking for. On reflection later, we decided that we must have been on the correct road to begin with however, what he recalled as a 20 minute chopper ride may have translated to many hours by motorcycle. We probably only had to travel another hour or so…….. Oh well. We tried. This was our first failure. There were other areas we had yet to go such as the boom boom bridge and an area close by where Alex saw action. The bridge was rebuilt and the bunkers he fondly remembered were torn away. The road still
existed and we came to an area that he had described in a story to me. This is a place where there was life and death. We sat for some time with Alex telling me the tale. I suggested that he follow a small path through a rice field to see if the trails he so vividly described were still there. I waited and waited for some time. Alex returned exuberant in that the exact same trails were still there and he was able to revisit the exact place that caused so much hurt. (It is up to him if he wants to tell it in his documentary.) Again we overnighted in Bong Son and this time he gave the chicken a miss and seceded to have the same Bun Thit Nuong that I was having. Mmmmmm Mmmmm.
The next morning we were off for our final destinations that were on his bucket list. The first place we were able to find almost purely by luck and the magic of gps was LZ Uplift. This firebase was
only meters off of the main highway on a small dust road that led us to the hard pack. There was a young farmer that was manually breaking up the old pavement to plant crops. I imagine there will be no trace left in a few years. Our last destination took us on route 19 to an airbase at Anh Khe and Camp Radcliff. We climbed the long mountain roads through beautiful landscaped. Alex
recounted on how everything was burned and brown dead when he last was there to keep the area clear of enemy combatants. The area is now a large Vietnamese military base. We probed and prodded and got as much access as we safely could without the powers that be catch us and throw away the key. Suffice it to say that it was quite an adventure even for me. Luckily I had exchanged business cards with the hotel in which we stayed as after descending the long mountain roads I received a phone call that Alex had forgot his battery chargers behind. What a lucky thing!! His filming would be over until they could be replaces. We drove back up the mountain like a bat out of hell and retrieved the lost items.
The rest of the drive to Nha Trang went as usual with a pleasant ride. After relaxing a few days, we were off again…… But this time for fun. 3 days in the highlands is probably my favorite thing to do. I spens a lot of time there and have made many friends. It also gives me the opportunity to show travelers a real side of Vietnam that is authentic and safe. Many people just go to tourist areas and take organized tours…. Sad for them. They never get to see the true spirit of Vietnam and its people.
Thank you Alex, the trip was a lot of fun and educational for me. You have helped me to be a better guide and become more knowledgeable in the Quang Ngai area.