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Impressions of Vietnam - Books & Movies
RECOMMENDED READING 
  • Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion by John Balaban, Nguyen Qui Duc. 17 stories by contemporary Vietnamese writers take the reader to extraordinary places: from the jungle-clad mountain ranges of the North to the mysterious silence of the old capital along the Perfume River. Love of family, exhaustion from war, social protest, and the hunger for a better life are some of the concerns in these thrilling landscapes.
  • Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham. Andrew Pham is a young Vietnamese-American who deals with a recent tragedy by embarking on a solo bicycle voyage around the Pacific Rim to Vietnam in pursuit of both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland. Pham chronicles his search for cultural identity by blending past and present in a poignant memoir that inspires us to reflect on who we are, where we came from, and where we think we're going.
  • The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family by Duong Van Mai Elliott. This extraordinary narrative woven from the lives of four generations of Elliott's family illuminates fascinating, and until now unexplored, strands of Vietnamese history. Elliott traces her family's journey through an era of tumultuous change and reveals the agonizing choices that split Vietnamese families.
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. Young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed while Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer.
  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace by Le Ly Hayslip, Jay Wurts. Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters landed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. Nearly twenty years after she escaped to America, she returns to her homeland and loved ones, a joyous reunion juxtaposed with reflections of her turbulent past growing up amidst the Vietnam War.
  • The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War by Paul Hendrickson. Robert McNamara was the official face of Vietnam, the technocrat with steel-rimmed glasses and an ironclad faith in numbers who kept insisting that the war was winnable long after he had ceased to believe it was. This brilliantly insightful, morally devastating book tells us why he believed, how he lost faith, and what his deceptions cost five of the war's witnesses and McNamara himself.
  • The Tunnels of Cu Chi: A Harrowing Account of America's "Tunnel Rats" in the Underground Battlefields of Vietnam by Tom Mangold. At the height of the Vietnam conflict, a complex system of secret underground tunnels sprawled from Cu Chi Province to the edge of Saigon. They had only one enemy: U.S. soldiers small and wiry enough to maneuver through, known as "tunnel rats." Using firsthand accounts from those on both sides of these underground battles, the book provides a gripping inside look at this fearsome combat.
  • The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam by Dana Sachs. Dana Sachs went to Hanoi when tourist visas began to be offered to Americans; young, hopeful, ready to immerse herself in Vietnamese culture. After an initial culture shock, Vietnam gradually became the home she couldn't leave.
  • A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan. Neil Sheehan tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann and the tragedy that destroyed the lives of so many Americans and Vietnamese. Vann put his life and career on the line in an attempt to convince his superiors that the war should be fought another way. A haunting and critically acclaimed masterpiece, A Bright Shining Lie is a timeless account of the American experience in Vietnam.
  • A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam by Norman Lewis. Originally published in 1951, it is said that A Dragon Apparent inspired Graham Greene to go to Vietnam and write The Quiet American. Norman Lewis traveled in Indo-China during the precarious last years of the French colonial regime. Much of the charm and grandeur of the ancient native civilizations survived until the devastation of the Vietnam War. Lewis could still meet a King of Cambodia and an Emperor of Vietnam; in the hills he could stay in the spectacular longhouses of the highlanders; on the plains he could be enchanted by a people whom he found gentle, tolerant and dedicated to the pleasures and satisfactions of a discriminating kind.
  • Understanding Vietnam by Neil L. Jamieson. Set against the background of traditional Vietnamese culture, this book follows the saga of modern Vietnamese history and Western involvement in the country, from the coming of the French in 1858 through the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The Vietnamese are allowed to speak for themselves through poetry, fiction, essays, newspaper editorials and reports of interviews and personal experiences.
  • The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War by Denise Chong. On June 8, 1972, nine-year-old Kim Phuc, severely burned by napalm, ran from her blazing village in South Vietnam and into the eye of history. Her photograph was seen around the world and helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War. This book is the story of how that photograph came to be-and the story of what happened to that girl after the camera shutter closed.
  • Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg. In 1971, former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers-a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam-to the New York Times and Washington Post. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy.
  • Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam by Frances FitzGerald. This landmark work, based on Frances FitzGerald's own research and travels, takes us inside Vietnam-into the traditional, ancestor-worshiping villages and the corrupt, crowded cities and reveals the country as seen through Vietnamese eyes. With a clarity and authority unrivaled by any book before it or since, Fire in the Lake shows how America utterly and tragically misinterpreted the realities of Vietnam.
  • The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. The Iliad of America's doomed involvement in Vietnam, Halberstam's book is an epic of audacious scope and intense human drama. Using portraits of America's flawed policy makers and accounts of the forces that drove them, the book reckons magnificently with one of the most important abiding question of our country's recent history: Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did we lose?
  • Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow. Karnow offers the definitive history of the Vietnam conflict, a monumental narrative that analyzes, clarifies, and demystifies the tragic ordeal of this unpopular, unwinnable war, from its underlying causes at the end of World War II to the final takeover of South Vietnam by its Communist neighbor, North Vietnam, in April 1975.
  • Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War by Michael Sallah, Mitch Weiss. The last great secret of the Vietnam War is revealed in a gripping book that is the culmination of extensive investigative reporting and one of the most important authorities on America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict. This is a compelling, chilling story that draws obvious parallels between the events detailed within and the My Lai massacre, as well as recent incidents from the war in Iraq.
  • Decent Interval: An Insider's Account of Saigon's Indecent End Told by the Cia's Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam by Frank Snepp. Still one of the most detailed and respected accounts of America's final days in Vietnam, the book was written at great risk and ultimately at great sacrifice by an author who once believed in the CIA's cause but was disillusioned by the agency's treacherous withdrawal, leaving thousands of Vietnamese allies to the mercy of an angry enemy.
  • Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land: The Vietnam War Revisited by Andrew Wiest. From the Colonial War with France in the 1940s and 50s, through to the final evacuation of Saigon, each chapter of Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land focuses on a different aspect of the Vietnam War. The 15 chapters are written by a diverse set of expert authors including participants in the war, journalists and historians.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING 
  • Apocalypse Now (1979) by Francis F. Coppola. The horror, the horror. Francis Ford Coppola disappeared into the Philippine jungle and emerged 2 years later with this film, possibly his greatest work. Based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the story follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) as he journeys upriver in search of the mysterious - and completely insane - Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). His mission: terminate Kurtz - "with extreme prejudice."
  • The Deer Hunter (1979) by Michael Cimino. In this Oscar-winning epic from director Michael Cimino, a group of working-class friends decides to enlist in the Army during the Vietnam War and finds it to be hellish chaos - not the noble venture they imagined. Before they left, Steven (John Savage) married his pregnant girlfriend - and Michael (Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken) were in love with the same woman (Meryl Streep). But all three are different men upon their return.
  • The Lover (1992) by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Set in French Colonial Vietnam in 1929, this Oscar-nominated film explores the erotic charge of forbidden love. A 15-year-old French girl is sent to a Saigon boarding school, where she meets a 32-year-old Chinese aristocrat. Love at first sight leads to a liaison where the lovers revel in a variety of sexual encounters. They both realize that their love is doomed, however, as neither of their families will approve of the interracial coupling.
  • The Scent of Green Papaya (1994) by Anh Tran Hung. Little things mean a lot in the world of 10-year-old Mui, a girl who's trained to be a house servant in 1950s Vietnam. This film follows Mui as she grows up in pre-war Saigon, and finds quiet love with a family friend. Dialogue seems almost tertiary in this film that celebrates the senses, as the young girl discovers the world around her and marvels at every new sight, sound and scent she experiences while going about her workday life.
  • Cyclo (1996) by Anh Hunh Tran. Le Van Loc and Tran Nu Yen Khe star in this drama, the Best Picture winner at the 1995 Venice Film Festival, about a pedi cab driver whose "cyclo" is stolen. Unable to make a living, he goes to great lengths to put food on his family's table. He reluctantly turns to the mob for work, and soon discovers a devastating secret: His sister, desperate to escape poverty, is deeply involved in the seamy underbelly of gang life.
  • The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2001) by Anh Hung Tran. The lush, super-chic ambience of Tran Anh Hung's third feature, the film presents a beckoning, irresistible vision of Vietnam. Hanoi comes across almost picture-perfect in director Tran Anh Hung's beautiful, elegiac tale about the lives and loves of three Vietnamese sisters. Hung sets a mood with the vivid sounds of birds, insects and water and the use of lighting and color.
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Why travel with other women?
Many women do not have families or compatible friends who wish to travel. When going on a main-stream tour, women often find that most activities are geared towards couples and quite often they feel left out. Singles' tours are not always what women are looking for. If you do not have a traveling companion, there is also the issue of the expensive "single supplement", sometimes as much as 50 or even 100 percent of the tour cost. By going on women-only tours, women can easily avoid paying for the single supplement by sharing a room with another woman traveler.
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