My Vietnam visa finally arrived today, firmly attached to page 15 in my passport.  I'm looking forward to accompanying former Governor Joe Kernan and Maggie on Joe's first return to Vietnam since he was shot down in 1972 and held as a POW.

Shot down on a reconnaissance mission over the famous Thanh Hoa bridge, which spans the Song Ma river 3 miles north east of Thanh Hóa, the capital of Thanh Hoa Province in Vietnam, Governor Kernan -- then a young Naval Flight Officer -- was badly beaten and held for nearly a year at two of the most notorious prisons in Vietnam: "The Zoo" and the "Hanoi Hilton".  His return will, no doubt, be full of emotion.

Shortly after President Clinton re-opened Vietnam to travel for U.S. citizens in 1995, I spent a week traveling from Hanoi, down to Hue and then Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) <see map below>. I have vivid memories of the wonderful people who were so hospitable and generous. They loved Americans, most being too young to remember the war twenty years earlier. The majority of the population in 1995 was under the age of twenty five. I remember one bus driver who was proud to show us the scar from the bullet wound he suffered fighting the Americans, and the sense of joy in his voice as he explained how happy he was that Americans could finally visit his wonderful country.

Vietnam is a stunningly beautiful country which I'm certain has changed a great deal since my visit 15 years ago. There was no internet or WiFi back then. I spent more than one night in a hotel room with roaches on the walls, or which lacked hot water -- and they were the best accommodations in the places we were.  Now, our hotels include hot water and WiFi. I hope to be able to post photos, videos and updates on my blog throughout the trip.

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