Vietnam: My Vietnam AK47 thrill

By Lachie Scott

Schoolboy Lachie Scott thanks his parents for a holiday that opened his eyes

A Vietnamese man pushes a full load of clay pots along what was once the Ho Chi Minh trail, Vietnam. Photo / AP
A Vietnamese man pushes a full load of clay pots along what was once the Ho Chi Minh trail, Vietnam. Photo / AP

When Mum was taken away by officials at Tan Son Nhat airport, Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, I wondered if I would ever see her again. It was all our fault, me and my brother Sam.

After firing AK47 assault rifles at the Cu Chi tunnels, Sam and I were told we could take some of the bullet shells home. Sam and I packed 14 shells into Mum's bag. About 15 minutes before we boarded our plane home Mum was called to the information desk then taken to the baggage section to go through her bag to find any materials that might be illegal. Mum was shocked to find the AK47 shells and handed them in. She got back just in time. But that was at the end of our trip.

"Oh my gosh! Turn on the air-con!" That was my first thought about Vietnam. It was so hot, that by the time I thought those words, I had already lost what felt like a litre of sweat. My second thought was "Well, this doesn't seem like a bad place to spend the school holidays." I was right about that.

Vietnam is one of the world's most fascinating, diverse and exciting places. Most people immediately associate Vietnam with the war in the 1960s and 70s. But Vietnam is far more than a battleground for US soldiers. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and (don't tell my teacher) I reckon I learned more during three weeks in Vietnam than I had at school the previous term.

So, any parents who would love to go to Vietnam, but haven't because they feel they wouldn't get much out of it if they took their children, I'm telling you you will get heaps more out of it if you take them. From the point of view of me, a 13-year-old from Cambridge, I was so lucky my parents took me travelling.

In September 2012, we flew to Bangkok, Thailand. We landed in Vietnam after 12 hours at Bangkok airport and a 90-minute flight to Hanoi, Vietnam's capital.

There the adventure really began.

Vietnam is crazy. It is completely different in pretty much every way from New Zealand. On Hanoi's roads all I could hear were car horns. It seemed that everyone kept one hand on them. But crossing the road was easy. There weren't any breaks in traffic, so we had to launch into it. I was really scared the first time, but everyone swerved around us. If you kept hesitating, that was when you got hit. Luckily, we caught on quickly and avoided being pancaked.

Further down the country, we did a motorcycling trip in Hoi An. The tour was led a by a British man called Hawk Moon (honestly) whose passion was motorcycling. The motorbikes were Minsks, Russian-built army bikes. They were incredibly reliable. There was one small problem though. Sam and Dad went on the same motorbike, but Mum wasn't very confident on hers, so she went on the back of Hawk Moon's.

This meant I had to ride pillion on Mr Sau's bike. He was the mechanic who worked at the tour company but spoke no English. It was really fun, especially when Mr Sau opened the throttle.

Our ride took us on a 100km circuit through old American airbases and Vietnamese villages. We also passed several schools where the kids waved and , held out their hands for high-fives.

In Hoi An we also took a Vietnamese cooking class, buying ingredients at the local food market - live animals, sharp knives, axes, the lot. And the smell! They had fish flopping round in buckets, frogs with no heads... or skin. It was kind of disgusting. I ended up making barbecue pork marinade kebabs with peanut sauce... yum!

The south of Vietnam suffered the most in the American War, as they call the Vietnam War. There have been so many wars in Vietnam that any of them could be called the "Vietnam War". Just outside Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) is the Cu Chi tunnel network, where the Viet Cong hid during the war. The tunnels were about a metre high and a metre wide, but used to be smaller. They have been widened to accommodate bigger tourists.

There was also a display of weapons used by American and Vietnamese soldiers and a firing range where tourists may fire these weapons. Imagine our dismay when the man at the desk said Sam and I had to be 16 to fire the guns, Luckily, Mum told the man we were 16. We all fired AK47s - 10 bullets each - at targets about 50m away. I don't think any hit the targets. But it was one of my favourite days on our trip. Even Mum loved it.

Hopefully, I have convinced parents it is okay to take your kids travelling. You will make your sons'/daughters' day (or holiday) if you take them to another country. The whole experience is an adventure from the moment you get off the plane.

Lachie's five food faves

Pho - a soup-like dish containing broth, noodles, meat and herbs.
Barbecue pork marinade - pork barbecued on sticks, served with spicy peanut sauce.
Mango salad - with mango, king prawns, greens and chilli.
Spring rolls - vegetables, meat, herbs and spices wrapped in rice paper and fried.
Lau - a spicy soup with vegetables, meat, seafood and herbs.


The Scott family paid their own way to Vietnam.

- Herald on Sunday

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