11-Feb-2002 -- Although I am American and I have found the first confluence point in Vietnam, my motivations are far from political. While in Vietnam I met a few visiting Americans who fought in the war, but one named 'Cecil' affected me the most. Although he was a huge marine nicknamed 'The Beast', he seemed like an extremely kind and gentle man. He told me about how horrible the war was, and he stressed that one of the reasons he wanted to come over to Vietnam was to say “I'm sorry”. I also apologize for the actions of my country. Far from being some kind of territorial conquest, I see the ability to hunt confluence points in Vietnam as symbolic that war is a part of the past, and exploring around a peaceful world for pleasure is hopefully what we are moving toward for the future. OK, enough politics, and I encourage Vietnamese people to find other confluence points.
As free as Vietnam is, all did not go peacefully with the local inhabitants in finding point 21N 106E. It all started in Hanoi when my Taiwanese friend, Shuman and I realized we had a day to kill and rented a motorscooter to head out into the countryside east of Hanoi (I should mention that, along with the US, Taiwan is also not on Vietnam's “10 Best Friend Countries” list). It only took a 45 minute ride down the “Road Warrior - esque” highway before we got to the point where we knew we had to pull off. At this point we were about 2 kilometers from the point.
We rode down paths into an area of agriculture and small villages. There were no real roads to any of these villages - only paved or dirt paths. People were getting around by foot, on bicycles, sometimes on motorcycles and toting farm equipment, carts and oxen. They may have thought it foreboding that foreigners would be passing through their villages on such a portentous day, the Tet holiday's eve (the Vietnamese celebration of the lunar new year).
Finally our GPS told us to go in a direction where there were no paths. Shuman was navigating from the back of the motorscooter. We turned down a raised, narrow, bumpy, dirt farm trail across crops and rice paddies. We got to another small village which we later found out was called Tan Nguy. At the edge of Tan Nguy boys were playing football and volleyball and a loudspeaker was blasting radio likely filled with communist/nationalist propaganda. Just outside of the village in a field of “kieu”, which was later translated to be something similar to spring onions, was the point.
However, all was not over once we found the point. We attracted a huge crowd while we were out in the field. A middle-aged man came right up to our faces and barked at us in an unfriendly tone. His breath smelled of alcohol. “Rabotat?” he said, which was surprisingly a Russian word - I hadn't heard any Russian during my month stay in Vietnam. However, I, having studied Russian, knew he was asking if we were doing work. I replied in Russian but he understood very little and he still didn't seem very happy. Many very curious children gathered around us and stared at us. Two young brothers told us the name of the village and the crops.
Because the Russian-speaking man seemed to get more and more upset, we left the field and got away from the crowd. I took a few pictures around the village while Shuman waited with the motorscooter. The Russian-speaking man caught up with me. He seemed like he wanted me to take his picture, so I did. Then he seemed to get even more upset. I then hurried back to Shuman, who told me that a police-like man wanted us to hand over our camera. We jumped on the bike and stormed out of the town!