Friday, December 09, 2005

Big Ass Tourists


Travel broadens the mind. The painful part about having my mind broadened is the realisation of how narrow it was in the first place. Sometimes I start to believe I know some things, but then I travel and vast galaxies of my ignorance open up before me.

I didn't know very much at all about the Vietnam War. I knew it happened round-about the nineteen sixties and involved America dropping a lot of bombs on Vietnam, but that was about it. After being inspired by the passionate account of a tour guide (who was himself a war veteran) on a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, I found myself a copy of Robert Mcnamara's book, "In Retrospect," and am enjoying broadening. I am angry with my education, however, which made History a boring chore in which we learned much tedious detail about British prime-ministers in the 1870's, but nothing whatsoever about the Communist revolution and the Vietnam War.

According to our veteran tour guide, the Vietnamese now refer to Brits and Americans as "big ass tourists", for obvious reasons. My ass proved small enough to fit through a short section of Cu Chi tunnel, but two minutes of it was quite enough for me. It was a fascinating and moving place, made all the more real by the personal stories from our guide, and I will leave much the wiser.

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