Sparring with Charlie: Motorbiking Down the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Christopher Hunt, Author
Christopher Hunt, Author Anchor Books $12.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-48128-1
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Compact Disc - 978-0-7861-9804-7
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Neither a lark nor a pilgrimage, Hunt's Vietnamese travelogue was first conceived as deep background for a novel set in Southeast Asia. The subtitle refers to a web of tracks and paths, known collectively as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, that served as a north-south supply route for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. With an investment of $400, Hunt, a journalist for the Economist, purchased a Russian-made Minsk motorbike and rode it across some 5000 kilometers of Vietnam. At the outset, Hunt is acutely aware that his American passport won't permit him to travel incognito, because his ""compatriots had dumped bombs equal to several Hiroshimas and a couple of Nagasakis on North Vietnam."" He is all the more astonished that, this fact notwithstanding, a former South Vietnamese admits to him that ""Americans sacrificed their lives to protect my freedom."" More often than not, Hunt must search for the Ho Chi Minh Trail before he can explore it. While trying to reach Saigon, he encounters obstacles manifest as terrain, history, culture and, not least, an uncooperative automobile. This work captures a sense of sadness fused with a rush of adrenaline as Vietnam is once again reborn. (May)
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