April 27, Friday, Da Nang: Today was somewhat routine. First we met with Mr. Huynh Duc Tran, Chair of the Da Nang Union of Friendship Oranizations (DUFO) and Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Tuyen, Chief of International Cooperation Division of DUFO. She is responsible for coordinating international activities on UXOs and AO. The factoids we gathered included an 11 to 13.5% growth rate in Da Nang for each of the last five years. They want sustained development while paying attention to the environment (in the US, we call that having our cake and eating it, too). The city is very young, with very little left from the bad old days–or good ones, either. Da Nang was largely destroyed during the last phases of the war. Foreign investments run to $3.7 billion US, with the US being one of the major players. There are 200 NGO’s operating in the Da Nang area. There were more than 1.7 million tourists in 2011. And so forth.
He recited their “Don’ts and Do’s’: Don’t have kids not in school (up to 8th grade is free, above that either costs the family, or is by merit scholarships). No one living in poverty. No murder. No theft. Do encourage education. Do provide culture. Do have jobs for everyone. Do proved shelter for everyone. (Note that health care is not on the agenda. They have not gotten that far, yet.) This was fairly typical of the types and detail of information we derived from our official meetings.
Then we went to visit another of Ms Hien’s day care centers, this one in the middle of Da Nang, and again got to dance with the kids — equally badly as the day before.
We had lunch at one of Suel Jone’s favorite hangouts, Hoa’s Place near Marble Mountain. Mr. Hoa is a character, having grown up during the war selling cokes to the GIs at the marines’ Marble Mountain Air Facility. He “hates the gummit” and is usually three sheets to the wind by lunch. We ran into a contingent of veterans of the 3d Marine Regiment, in country for a battlefield tour. Nice enough guys really, but they seemed mostly interested in reliving their own experiences during the war, and in hanging out together, and were not even curious about what we were doing there. Weird. Also weird was their chosen mode of transportation: two restored military Jeeps, olive drab, rag-topped, and complete with non-working PRC-25 radios, antennae, and E-tools. The only thing missing was a roof-mounted 50 caliber. Turns out you can easily rent these beasts in Da Nang with new Toyota engines, though God knows why you would want to. They were about to embark on the same loop through A Luoi and Khe Sanh that we had just completed — minus a quiet and air-conditioned van and the humanitarian reason for doing it.
Following this weird interlude, we visited the famous Marble Mountain Buddhist monastery. The mountain, one of four actually, is riddled with caves and many ancient and simply old statues and shrines. I read somewhere that some of the hidden caves were used as recovery centers for wounded VC during the war, but was unable to confirm this during our visit, and a quick internet search failed to turn up any confirmation.