It is surprising the number of people I meet that were inspired to visit Vietnam on the back of Top Gear – Vietnam Special – myself included.
While this may be a more recent development in tourism, of more long standing in the south and central Vietnam are veterans of the Vietnam War. Or American War of Resistance as it is known here. For many the journey back to ‘Nam’ is therapeutic, a homage to fallen comrades and an often times unseen enemy.
Some 500 downed US aircrew ended up in Hao Lo Prison in Hanoi, the erstwhile Hanoi Hilton. Among the inmates was the late Senator John McCain. His jet was brought down in Truc Bach lake in Hanoi, a monument on the lakeside marks the occasion. (Interestingly, Hanoi does today have a Hilton, but, for obvious reasons, is billed as the Hanoi Opera Hilton as it is beside the Opera House.)
Get a flavor of veterans returning to Vietnam here on Action 2 News.
By contrast, the Top Gear received team a far warmer reception as they sought to motorbike from Saigon to Ha Long Bay. The hour long show was basically an extended advert for Vietnam. I, like many others I am sure, sat transfixed and resolved, “I’m going there.”