150 kms southwest of Ho Chi Minh city, about 3.5 hrs by bus.

Things I know:
– an area called Đồng Tháp Mười, but i don’t even know what and where exactly it is, and why it is famous.
– a town called Sadec, where part of the film L’amant (the Lover) was set. (A haunting book of longing and desire, adapted into a nostalgically sensual film, the first Western production shot in the country post 1975).

It is not all a tourist destination, evidenced by the dearth of hotel information online. I got off at the bus terminal and just asked around. Found a place and settled in. Dad called; he remembered that he has a friend here in the city of Cao Lanh (the provincial capital). That’s the wonderful thing about the military: it’s a hotpot of people from all different places.

15 years ago, my dad went a way for a year of training in the city of Nha Trang. Uncle Hung was in the same cohort as my dad. Back then, cell phones were a rarity. Once or twice a week, uncle Hung would trek to the local post office to call home. When my dad knew about this, he offered his cell phone number to uncle Hung so that his wife could call and he wouldn’t have to take the walk at night any more.

Uncle Hung is now the second-in-command of the provincial army, and he offered me a military “escort” – one of his men can take me around to visit the recipients. Made me feel like a VIP, but i think i’ll just opt for the xe ôm.

Uncle Hung explained to me that Đồng Tháp Mười back in the day was all uninhabited wetland where hardcore resistance fighters used to hide out. (Mystery solved!) It has turned into a major rice production area since. The only part that still resembles the past is Tràm Chim, which is now a national park and Ramsar site, famous for its crane population. Too bad I have no time for sightseeing on this trip, but definitely next time around.

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