China Beach by Bicycle in 2012

Bicycling along the Gulf of Tonkin, passing through Dalang, and then coming upon China Beach, the images of the Vietnam War are overwhelming for those of us who were teenagers during those years. I remember watching Walter Cronkite explain the horrors on TV, and watching the lottery to find out whether my brother would be drafted. Today Vietnam is a country of 90 million people, with one fourth younger than 14, and almost every single person is warm and welcoming. This country has defended itself against warriors from China, Japan, France, and the US, so the “American War” was only one of many. 


These days China Beach has a Crowne Plaza and a Hyatt Regency, and it also still has bamboo basket boats, like the round one in this photo. After seeing a round bamboo boat in a guidebook, I hoped to find one myself. I found dozens along China Beach, including some large new ones being varnished to waterproof them. I saw women and men poling them, just like the gondoliers of Venice, and they can also be powered by a motor. When I was a teenager, I never imagined some day I’d be riding my bike beside China Beach, sending this blog with a digital photo from my own computer.


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