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Vietnam Tour

By Autumn Cadre - Posted on 10 February 2009

CCDS Tour @ Women's UnionBetween December 30, 2008 and January 13, 2009 I was in Vietnam promoting Vietnam: American Holocaust and filming, recording, gathering materials and making contacts for future documentaries about Vietnam including the sequel, Vietnam: People's Victory . I went as part of a 15 member Peace Tour organized by Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism [CCDS] and hosted by the 13 million member Vietnam National Women's Union.Sign on Vietnam Women's Union Building I was able to go because of a scholarship supporting my work from CCDS.

In two weeks we travelled to Hanoi, Halon Bay, Da Nang, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City [Saigon]. Our first day in Hanoi we visited Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son temple, Red Lights On Hoan Kiem Lake Red Horse in Templewent for a cyclo tour of the city and had dinner at the Legend Wine restaurant. On the second day we met with representatives of the Women's Union Meeting with Women's Unionand then with the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange.Members of VAVA The next day we went to Halon Bay, which is truly one of the wonders of the natural world. In the course of our visit we were to see so much and meet with so many people. Vietnam is a scenically beautiful country and the people have a fantastic sense of design Girls pose before flowers and love to use colors boldly. Boats in HueFred Nguyen Fred Nguyenand I worked together as a media team and we recorded everything with audio recordings, still photos and HD video. Our equipment was modest. I had a Canon HV30 HDV cam, Kids with Canon HV30 a Canon S3 digital camera and a Zoom H4 sound recorder, Fred had a Canon HF10 HD Flash cam and a small audio recorder, but we made the most of it. Clay with Canon HV30 I had also brought with me more that a hundred copies of the DVDVietnam: American Holocaust and I was giving those out everywhere. Vietnam: American Holocaust Poster in Da Nang The morning after we got back to Hanoi from Halon Bay, I went up to the roof of the hotel and shot the cityscape. Hanoi Cityscape I was to do this from the roof of every hotel we stayed at. I captured panoramas of Hanoi Hanoi, Da Nang Da Nang Cityscape , Hue and Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City from roof Most mornings we had breakfast in the hotel, and I've come to love Vietnamese coffee. It is very strong and drunk with sweet condensed milk. Lunch and dinner were usually at different restaurants, always with great Vietnamese food, which is Asian with a French twist. Lots of seafood, fish sauce, rice, many vegetables and fruits, chicken and beer came with every meal. Lunch in Hanoi The Vietnamese make lots of beer, Hanoi, Tiger, Saigon, local beers everywhere and they import lots of Heineken. They also introduced me to a new mixed drink, the B52. It' what you order if you want to get bombed in Hanoi. You can't say they don't have a sense of humor. Sea Food

My liberal sprinkling of DVDs paid off because by the time top commie Vu Xuan Hong was giving us a seminar at the Vietnam Union of Friendship Societies he had already seen it. Hong is a member of the National Assembly, speaks good English and also met with McCain and Kerry when they came to Vietnam. Meeting with Vu Xuan Hong {"He's big Jim, and he's got treasure for us".-John LeCarre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy } Not only had he already seen it, he wanted everyone in Vietnam to see it. He wanted to put it on Vietnam TV throughout this country of 86 million and also internationally through VTV4. I agree to a one time showing in return for the Vietnamese translation, either sub-titles or over-dubbing.

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They said they wanted to put it on TV as early as January 17th, their Geneva Accord Day. They also arranged to have TV crews from VTV4 come out and interview me and other members of the CCDS tour in a few days. Screnshot from VTV4

Later that day we visited Bach Mai Hospital Bac \h Mai Hosital , bombed during the war Bach Mai Hospital after bombing but now rebuilt and very much in operation. Bach Mai Lobby Outside of Bach Mai Then we heard a lecture from Mr. Le Dang Doanh Mr. Le Dang Doanh , Delegation listens to Mr. Doanh an expert on Vietnam's economy and went to a Water Puppet show in the evening. I happened to be wearing my VFP t-shirt as we dined at the Hanoi restaurant that night. An American Vietnam vet by the name of Chuck Searcy saw me and struck up a conversation. The American ex pat community in Hanoi is a small one, so it turned out he knew Gerry Herman of the Cinemateque Hanoi. Before I came to Vietnam, Gerry Herman had tried to set up a showing of Vietnam: American Holocaust at the Cinemateque Hanoi so I could be present for a Q&A but we could never get it together. Now Chuck Searcy contacted him with an eye towards setting it up for the next day. As it turned out, that didn't happen either. There wasn't enough time and I wanted to go to the Friendship Village on Saturday, but Chuck did buy 10 copies of the DVD for American vets in Hanoi.

The next morning we went to the Hô Chí Minh Mausoleum saw his house and had lunch as the Cha Ca La Vong. In the afternoon we traveled to Friendship Village Friendship Village at the Van Canh commune. The village takes care of Agent Orange victims Agent Orange Kids and was started by U.S. Vietnam Vet George Mizo. We met with the director, Mr. Dung, Mr. Dung of Friendship Village He looked very sad. He had just that morning found out that his budget had been cut in half. The economic crisis is hitting Vietnam hard.

Sunday morning we went to the Temple of Literature and then to the Friendship Union offices for a talk by Mr. Tran Duc Loi. As the talk was starting I was asked to come outside to be interviewed by the TV crew that had just arrived. There I also met the director of Vietnamese TV, the editor-in-chief and a reporter from Vietnam-US Magazine, a number of old resistance fighters an a swirl of other people. All were very interested in my documentary film. I had made the film so that American's would not forget our history. The Vietnamese also see it as a useful tool in teaching their own young people that history. We had a banquet lunch at the Friendship Union and Mr. Loi asked me to sit with him. Tran Duc Loi and me at banquet At lunch we discussed my current film, Vietnam: American Holocaust and the one I am working on now, Vietnam: People's Victory. He said he would provide any help he could for my films. When I suggested that someone shoulddo a documentary on General Võ Nguy ȇ n Giáp, he said "And you are the one to do it, but soon, very soon!" General Giáp is 97 years old and described as clear in his mind but frail in his body. Vo Nguyen Giap, history teacher and journalist became one of the greatest military leaders the world has seen. For more than 40 years he led the Vietnam People's Army, engineering the siege of Diện Biȇn Phủ and the Tet Offensive. He led their army to victory first against the French and then against the Americans. I plan to return to Vietnam ASAP to do his story.

After lunch we heard a presentation on Vietnam's Nationalities in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology at the Museum of Ethnology and got interviewed by another TV crew. VTV4 Cameraman

The next day we flew to Da Nang where we visited with the local Women's Union, had dinner at the Apsara Restaurant, stayed overnight at the Bamboo Green Central Hotel. Da Nang was an important U.S. military base during the war and the remnants of the war were everywhere. Fighter Bomb Proofd Converted China Beach was beautiful but we didn't go swimming. Cina Beach It was raining. We did go to Da Nang University and met staff and students. Very interesting. Meeting at Da Nang University Then we took a bus back north to Hue. Very scenic.

Hue is the old Imperial capital; the home of the Citadel Hue Citadel and the location of a major battle in the '68 Tet offensive Artililery in Hue so there was a lot to see in our 2 days there. We had a tour of the private museum of resistance fighter Le Quang Vin. Vinh'sMuseum and the Thien Mu Pagoda, Thien Mu Pagoda a visit to the Tomb of King Tu Duc. Gate to Tomb of King Tu Duc While others visited a local market, Hue Market I got my glasses fixed by a Hue optician and purchased a new Canon camera bag. Other adventures I had in Hue including going out at night alone to find electrical tape and crazy glue. Also while we were in Hue, a special on-camera interview of some old freedom fighters was arranged for Fred and I.

Our last stop was Ho Chi Minh City, Tour Guide Nam at HCMC Post Office formerly Saigon, and we took a plane there from Hue. We were in HCMC for four days and stayed at the Le Duy Hotel. Traffic is bad in all the major cities, but really bad in HCMC. Traffic in HCMC With motorbikes carrying everything and going everywhere, Motorbike with load it takes a special skill just to cross the street. We had a meeting with some young business people, Business Women in HCMC went to a factory Factory Floor and met trade unionist Union Leaders in HCMC and visited a women and peasants group in the countryside, but to me the highlight was our trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. War Veterans at Cu Chi This is an area about 40 km from HCMC were they have recreated part of the tunnel complex Cu Chi Tunnels and many of the tricks, traps and devices they used to win the war. We had dinner at the Zen Restaurant when we got back to HCMC. Our last full day in Vietnam began with a tour of the War Crimes Museum. War Crimes Museum In the afternoon I hunted down a 500GB portable hard drive at a local computer store, paid $155 USD and started capturing some 35 hrs of videotape to the hard drive. I wanted a backup before I left.

Before I got on the 14 hrs flight back to LAX I had also taken over 2000 photographs and dozen of hrs of audio recording. I also copied a similar amount of material from Fred. Now the job of making use of that material has only begun. Some of it will find it's way into Vietnam: People's Victory, alongwith the historical photographs, art graphics and archival footage I collected during this trip. Much of it I will use to produce a new feature in HD with the working title Vietnam Today. And I still plan to go back to do Giap's story. Since I got back Bui Van Nghi, Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam-USA Society has written to me: "It is good to know that [you] think of returning to Vietnam soon [to] interview General Võ Nguyen Giap as an important part of a documentary on his life. We at the Vietnam-USA Society are ready to host and facilitate your trip and arrange interviews and other necessary meetings with former military officials, commanders, veterans or scholars, historians for you for your film: Vietnam: People's Victory." There is much to be done!

For our last dinner in Vietnam, we were treated to a cruise on a Saigon River boat. As we waited in the hotel lobby before we left for dinner, someone asked, "Clay is that you film on TV?" I looked up and sure enough, excerpts of Vietnam: American Holocaust were playing on the VTV4 evening news, followed by interviews with me and other members of the tour group. The next morning the women cooking the omelets for the breakfast buffet told me "Mr. Claiborne, you go sit down. I'll bring it to you. I saw you on TV last night."

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