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Full Circle

Day 80: Hue

Michael Palin - Full CircleWe walk around, which takes a long time, ending up at the sacred Third Enclosure. This, says Miss Huong, was bombed by the Americans which is why it is now almost empty. I asked her whether it was true that the Vietcong hid in here deliberately, assuming the Americans would not bomb it, but she didn't know. I asked her about the reports of atrocities committed by the Vietcong against the priests and intellectuals of Hue. No, she knew nothing of that either.

At a bar called DMZ across the road from the hotel, I fall into conversation with an American who fought in the war and was captured and tortured by the Vietcong. On two occasions they lined him up before a firing squad, which then deliberately missed. He had been in a special army reconnaissance group and I asked him whether he'd have got off more lightly if he'd been an ordinary GI. He shakes his head vigorously. 'If I'd been an ordinary GI I'd have been dead.'

After the war, his marriage broke up because he couldn't speak about what had happened. He's now married again and coming back like this, to Hamburger Hill where he was taken prisoner, is part of coming to terms with horrors that still haunt him. Tomorrow he's going to surf China Beach with a bunch of other vets.

There are two dishes which catch my eye on the menu tonight: 'King Prawns Steamed In Gutter and Tom Rang Me, which for a moment I thought was a message from my son.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 80
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Hue
  • Book page no: 118

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