Friday, November 17, 2006
Travel Tips For Dubya
Dear President Bush,
I commend you on your upcoming trade visit to Vietnam. It is a dynamic growing country that we need to partner with to ensure a steady supply of sneakers for our youth. It is good you are getting this opportunity now, since you didn’t have a chance to go to Vietnam back in the 60s and 70s when it was a frequent destination for guys your age, like that liberal Kerry guy and his environmental whacko friend Al. Back then, only a few select Americans got to see Hanoi at all, so I want to provide some tourist tips I learned from my visit last year.
The road from the airport to downtown Hanoi passes Truc Bach Lake where on October 26, 1967, John McCain’s A-4 plane was shot down and he was beaten by an angry mob. You might not remember this very well because in the fall of 1967 you were probably getting roughed up pretty bad yourself quarterbacking the intramural football team while taking a bunch of history courses pass-fail. Nevertheless, we were lucky to have brave war heroes like John McCain defending our country. I understand your vice-president had other priorities at the time.
If you do want to learn some history about the war, the Museum of Military History in Hanoi covers the Vietnamese struggle for independence since colonial times. It has important relics like the tank that stormed the grounds of the Presidential Palace in Saigon. It also has a large scrap pile of debris gathered from American planes shot down over North Vietnam including the tail from a B-52. I don’t know if there were any parts from F-102’s like the ones you flew for the Texas Air National Guard, since, as you probably remember, the US wasn’t using those in Vietnam during your service. Good choice on your part.
The main cultural attraction in Hanoi is the Water Puppet Theater where large wooden puppets are manipulated by players hiding behind a curtain. Much like a presidential debate. The story is about poor villagers attacked by dragons that are saved by a giant flying turtle. Seriously. You can see my video of it here.
Another favorite tourist spot, which was recently featured on The Amazing Race, is Hoa Lo Prison, aka the “Hanoi Hilton”. It’s a little tough to find since most of it was demolished to make room for the bright shiny Hanoi Towers office building, but they kept part of it around for foreign visitors to see. I didn’t actually go in, but they have mementos of Senator McCain’s stay when he was a guest there for 5-1/2 years. He finally left in 1973. This would be about a year after you got grounded from the Guard for not taking your flight physical. Tough break, but at least that freed you up to get that valuable MBA.
For much more luxurious accommodations, I hope they book you into the Soffitel Metropole, the only five star hotel in Hanoi. This is where Jane Fonda and Joan Baez stayed when they visited Vietnam. I will vouch that the service is first rate. Since you don’t drink anymore, having quit a good ten years after that DUI arrest, I recommend the fresh squeezed mango juice they serve at the pool bar. It is delicious.
I know it is tough to see much of a place when you are only there for a few days and get stuck in a bunch of boring meetings, but try to visit the Temple of Literature. This temple recalls a proud nine-hundred-year-old tradition of training and testing the brightest students for important leadership positions in the dynasty. While meritocracy is a fine idea, I prefer our democratic system where the candidate not being accused of miscegenation can win a primary and go on to be a world leader.
I’m also not keen on the ancient notion of people feeling entitled to hereditary leadership positions. When we visited Hue (which is probably not on your itinerary), we learned a lot of gossip about the Nguyen Dynasty. It seems the original emperor was a great warrior and leader, but his descendants were delusional incompetents that eventually dragged the country down into helpless dependence on other countries.
Unfortunately, in Hue most of the Imperial Palace was destroyed during the Tet Offensive. We actually won that battle, but it caused the American public to turn against an increasingly futile war where American soldiers were dying fighting a guerilla insurgency in a distant Asian country while propping up a US installed government that didn’t have any popular support. Thank goodness we learned the lessons of that conflict.
Finally, don’t eat the chicken. We’d hate for you to catch avian flu and wretch all over a world leader. Your dad never lived that down. You don’t want to make the same mistakes he made.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If any of the words are too big or confusing, get your dad’s friend Jim to explain it. I understand you two have been spending a lot of time together lately.
Make sure the White House web designer knows the difference between the old South Vietnam flag like they fly over Eden Center and their real flag. Here's a picture of the real flag in case you get confused.