My father remembers Pleiku, Vietnam circa 1967 as a village of a few thousand residents where one frequently encountered Montagnards in loincloths. No more. Today, Pleiku is a chaotic city of 300,000 fast on its way to replicating the speeding motor scooter insanity of Saigon. Above: Pleiku as of yesterday, photographed from the 8th floor of the swell Hoang Anh hotel.
This is as close as we could get to the MACV compound where my father lived and worked when he was in the Army:
Behind the wall is a Vietnamese military installation and on the wall, as everywhere, is a portrait of Ho Chi Minh. When the driver slowed the car so we could take pictures, a soldier shouted at us. We felt very important.
I would say it was a huge disappointment that we couldn't get closer to the MACV compound, as this was one of the original focal points of our trip, except I have never seen my father happier than he was yesterday, finding old landmarks (Artillery Hill??), eating pho, and talking about the War with our unforgettable Pleiku guide, Mr. Cham. There's so much to say about this journey, I have so many thoughts and feelings, but my smart-ass food blog seems like a truly inadequate forum. Maybe I'll figure out a way to write about it here, but meanwhile. . .
This is a burial house in a muddy and beautiful Jarai village near Pleiku:
and this is a pig being crawled upon by puppies:
and this is a scary-looking jackfruit:
and this is a good-looking Vietnamese chicken:
Also! I found honey. Pleiku honey. Phung, our "main" guide (the guide situation is complicated in this part of Vietnam), warns that it might not actually be pure honey, but I think it, is based on where I bought it (fancy shop) and what I've read about Vietnamese apiculture. If there's any unadulterated honey in Vietnam, it's very likely from Pleiku. I wrapped the bottle in three hotel laundry bags to bring home and would rather leave my suitcase behind than that bottle of honey. I hope there aren't rules about carrying honey into the U.S.
We're in the touristy coastal town of Hoi An, now. It's crazy hot and we're taking the afternoon off from breakneck touring. I'm reading A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, a book that deserves all the prestige prizes it won, and probably a few more. I should get back to reading now, so I can finish before 2010.
Another excellent book, as I've said before: Novella Carpenter's Farm City. I have a short review here. I also loved her recent blog post about visiting New York City.