Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write a Travelogue (11/06/14)
TITLE: Aside from the War
By Jim Newton
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This deplorable scene was common fare for third-class travelers fatigued by a demanding 365 day see-Vietnam-on-a-budget vacation. The actual experience versus the descriptions and pictures in travel agency books had little in common. If you have travel planned with this budget-buster method, you need to seriously consider an upgrade.
The posh hotels frequented by royalty in the travel agency brochures turned into bamboo mats thrown upon bug infested ground with sleeping bags thrown on top as a substitute for the canopy-topped bed with a mattress so soft you sunk out of sight.
The gourmet breakfast served to you in bed...served in bed was true...was a box of World War II surplus C rations containing fake powdered eggs , spam, a canned biscuit of the tepid nature, one tiny can of peaches, and a tiny pack of cigarettes. Lunch was rarely, and supper..boxed something or other that exhaustion blocked.
However, there came those rare days, those rare moments, when God allowed me to peer through a break in the fog of war. A break allowing me to take in his creation that is so oft covered by man's debris.
I climbed to a point three-quarters of the way up a mountain covered in trees except for a small rock outcropping that shot out of the trees to give me an unobstructed view of the surrounding landscape and sea. I saw the South China Sea with sampans and junks traveling here and there on the placid water as their purposes called for. As I turned my head to the left, I took in the Da Nang harbor that gave sanctuary to military and civilian boats and ships. On the rim of the harbor, piers had been constructed. The Piers were constantly filled to capacity with enormous civilian container ships that supplied the extensive United States military presence in this far-away-from-home land. Though not true, It seemed many of the ships were filled with an infinite number of containers stacked ten or more high with all containing little other than beer and soft drinks. The contents of the containers were loaded onto semi-trailer trucks for transport to a vast underground storage facility located three miles distant. The result being a two-lane road clogged with trucks in a nearly endless line day and night. A waxy, thick cardboard covered the pallets of beer and soft drinks, each measuring approximately six feet high by six feet wide.
The remainder of the harbor's rim was covered in houses. Of course, these were certainly not houses as we know them in this country. Most of the houses were sided on the exterior with the cardboard from the pallets of beer and soda. The waxy cardboard was designed to withstand the ocean voyage and the humid, rainy climate of this country. Thus you have a perfect exterior recycled from a readily available and free source. At first sight it was a shocking sight, but over time, few commented or paid any attention to it.
God laid me out that day with his take-your-breath-away beauty. I had been there for seven or eight months never realizing I was legally blind.
Faraway, on the opposite shoreline beyond the harbor, jungle-covered mountains supported the clouds. The low-hanging dark-gray clouds hiding the upper regions made the mountains look taller than, in reality, they are. The clouds added a mystery to the landscape that brought back memories of the Orient developed in my mind as a child brought about by reading. Here and there, Buddhist Pagodas peeked out from the sides of the mountains. Cemeteries surrounded some Pagodas, and were filled with unusual headstones containing the Nazi-like swastika. A foreboding sight to a westerner. It is the gammadion cross, I was to learn, which is a sacred symbol to the religions such Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. As I understand it, it is a symbol of good fortune or luck.
Were it not for the demands of war upon my time and all its prohibitions, I think I would have drawn great enjoyment from an auto tour of that country to include in this travelogue.
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