Back to the future on Black Virgin Mountain
Near the end of our trip to Vietnam last month, our group visited Nui Ba Den, the Black Virgin Mountain. My father, Howard Goldin and other veterans on our trip who had been stationed in the Cu Chi – Tay Ninh area remembered seeing this high hill every day, which is about the only thing that still looks familiar in the area. This landmark prompted a lot of conflict, they recalled, because American troops were stationed at the top for strategic reasons, but could only be resupplied by helicopter due to the VC guerrillas hidden along the paths up the mountain.
As if the huge Louis Vuitton store across the street from our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t enough evidence that capitalism has come to Vietnam after all, this former battlefield is now being turned into some kind of water park.
We boarded cable cars (with advertisements on them!) to get to the pagoda at the top, and the construction workers waved up at us as we took the 15-minute ride up to the peak.
Click on the audio link to hear my father explain a little bit about this mountain – he had to talk quickly, in between blasts of Disney-esque music coming from the speakers!
Once we got to the top, however, we were transported back to the Vietnam War – we could barely make out a few of the caves where the VC guerrillas once hid and even had a makeshift hospital. And then, I spotted a sign of the past meeting the future: someone – another returning veteran, no doubt – had carved what appears to be an Army serial number into an old tree.
The scars of war, indeed.