83rd Larry Richins (69)
"A" Battery


This is a travelogue of a trip that Larry and his family took to Southeast Asia in September 2012 .

"We haven't had a vacation since last September when we went to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Vietnam is totally different than when we were there. The people really treated us great but I think they know that is how to get more money out of us.

We had the trip to Thailand planned, but hadn't really seriously considered going to Nam. We started looking on the maps and saw that it wasn't really that far to Vietnam, so we decided to do it. It cost an extra $1800 for airfares and hotels but it was worth it. I was quite impressed with Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). It was really quite clean. We had spent a week in Bangkok before we went to Vietnam and there are parts of that city that are not so clean and it had what my sister calls the Asia stink. There was no Asia stink in Saigon, at least the parts that we saw.

Our group consisted of my sister and her husband, who is from Thailand originally but has lived in the states for the past 35 years, and my wife and I. I really wanted to show them some of the places where I was when I was there. We flew up to DaNang then took a taxi up to Phu Bai. I spent the last four months of my tour based in DaNang. We got up as far as Hue and I wanted to get out west of there to the fire bases such as Bastogne, Blaze, Cannon and Currahee. In 1969 the engineers pushed a road for us to take the howitzers out there and we called it route 547. They now call it QL49. I couldn't get my hands on a map so I could show the taxi driver where I wanted to go and I kept saying QL49 and A Shau valley but he spoke very little English and didn't know what I was talking about. So Hue was the end of the line as we ran out of time and had to drive all the way back to DaNang that night.

We were about 20 miles from Bastogne when we were in Hue. The speed limit is 50 km/hr, which is about 38 miles per hour, so it took forever to get anywhere. It was worth it but if I went again I would spend about 5 or 6 days there rather than the three we spent. My wife says she liked Vietnam better than Thailand. In Saigon the people were super nice to us so that made a big difference. The Vietnamese were a lot more friendly than most of the Thai people.

My brother-in-law (the Thai guy) travels extensively and he had a travel agent who he knows line everything up and it went very smoothly. Communication with the Vietnamese wasn't to terribly difficult but the little cab driver in DaNang didn't speak a whole lot of English but he could understand quite a bit. He was very apologetic about not knowing about how to get us to QL49. He was so happy to do what ever you wanted. We tipped him quite handsomely because he was so nice. In Saigon everyone spoke enough English that we were quite comfortable. It was interesting to see all the American fast food restaurants there. They have Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King and some others.

The young people would congregate at the ice cream places in the evenings with their friends and dates, somewhat like it was here a few years ago. We ate mostly at Vietnamese restaurants and the food was really good. When we stayed at the hotels they made us leave our passports at the front desk and they would give them back to us when we checked out. Could be just a socialist -communist thing.

We went to the Cu Chi tunnels near Saigon and that was quite interesting to hear the communist twist on how good the VC and the NVA were. The guides were soldiers in the Vietnamese army. I wanted to challenge our guide on some of the crap he was peddling but decided against it since I didn't want to see the inside of a jail."


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