Thursday, June 4, 2015

Grass roots challenge to the official commemoration

To the Editor:

The Village of Hastings is aligning its planned Memorial Day activities with the Pentagon’s program for a “50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War.”  We would like to share with your readers why we think this is inappropriate.

Memorial Day was once “Decoration Day,” a time when people visited the graves of soldiers killed in wartime.  Originating after our Civil War, it was a time to memorialize the dead, not to debate the merits of the war.  This non-political tradition has largely continued.

Attempting to combine this memorializing activity with a Pentagon-style reconsideration of the Vietnam War is simply impossible. We now know how the United States instigated the war by preventing the reunification of Vietnam under the 1954 Geneva Accords; how the 1964 Tonkin Gulf resolution, which provided congressional authorization for the war, was based on lies; and how 3.3 million Vietnamese people were killed in the ensuing holocaust.  If we are truly to “commemorate” – “to remember together” – the Vietnam War, we must acknowledge that long before its end opinion polls showed that a majority of Americans thought the war was a “mistake”; and by 1971 59 percent thought it was “immoral.”  Many Rivertowns residents were active opponents of the war, and in any commemoration they and their reasons for rejecting the war should be included.

Moreover, commemorating the 50th Anniversary dangerously distorts the history of the war, as 1965 marked its midpoint, not its beginning. In that year the goal of the massive invasion of South Vietnam by the United States was to maintain a bogus and bitterly opposed regime that we ourselves had created.  The service of many thousands of Vietnam veterans prior to 1965, including some signers of this letter, should not be suppressed in order to tell a more convenient story.

Perhaps the only way to merge Memorial Day with a Vietnam commemoration would be to apologize to those who died, and to their families and loved ones.  We could express our sorrow that more than 58,000 Americans died in an unjust war.  We could say that we are sorry that we did not prevent our political leaders from convincing so many that the Vietnamese and their desire for reunification constituted a threat to our country.  And we could express our sorrow that wars are still being fought on the same dubious grounds that led to so many deaths in Vietnam.

Marcia Brewster
Frank Brodhead
Sidney Callahan
Jay Gilbert
Naseem Jamali
Nick Mottern
Jenny Murphy
Michele Rafferty
Susan Rutman
Andy Ryan
Richie Schlosberg
Linda Snider
Betsy Todd
Vicky Youngman
Elisa Zazzera

[All from Hastings]

Jim Loewen on the War Revisioned


Sociologist James W. Loewen is the author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me."

            On Friday, May 1, and Saturday, May 2, 2015, 700 veterans of the protests against the Vietnam War gathered at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church ("Lincoln's Church") in downtown Washington, D.C. The meeting had been called by the "Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee," initiated by Tom Hayden, John McAuliff, and David Cortright.
            The Department of Defense provided the impetus for the formation of the Peace Commemoration Committee when it revealed its plans to spend some $30-60,000,000 that Congress had given it to commemorate the Vietnam War. I cannot just write "Department of Defense" without noting that it had been called the War Department until after World War II. Soon after its name change, DOD abandoned all pretense of limiting itself to defense, built bases all around the world including within gunshot of countries it defined as enemies, and has remained almost continuously at war ever since.
            About Vietnam, DOD's plans showed how prescient George Swiers, a Vietnam veteran, was, decades ago, when he said, "If we do not speak of it, others will surely rewrite the script. Each of the body bags, all of the mass graves will be reopened and their contents abracadabraed into a noble cause."[1]
            To head this off, the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee formed and met with the Pentagon. They challenged what they had heard about the K-12 school curriculum ideas that DOD planned. DOD's fall-back position was that we should now "honor our servicemen" by inviting them to speak in schools. Fine, said the Commemoration Committee, but they pointed out that schools should also invite veterans of the peace movement. After all, the protestors were right: our War in Vietnam was not in the best interests of the United States or Vietnam and was morally as well as politically wrong.
            I did not intend to write about the intense and well-planned reunion of protestors that took place in Washington. Apparently no one else has, however. Why no reporters attended I do not know. So I shall quickly record some of the things that took place. The plenary proceedings were video-recorded; hopefully they will show up soon on a website.
            The Friday evening program was called "Honoring Our Elders." Phil Donahue (still alive! still alert!) emceed. He proved to be a fine stand-up comedian! (Who knew?) For example, at the end of the program, trying to herd participants together for a photo, he said, "You know what Christ told his disciples at the Last Supper, right? If you wanna be in the picture, you gotta get on this side of the table!"
            Before the elders held forth, Bill Ehrhart read an interesting poem. Then Congresswoman Barbara Lee from Oakland (CA) spoke at length. She had replaced the legendary Ron Dellums and was the only person in Congress to vote against the blank check that legitimized George W. Bush's Iraq War. Then Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, & Mary, sang a heartfelt and complex antiwar song.
            Then came the impressive array of elders. Each was introduced by a "younger," a young activist against our current wars or ongoing injustices. The elders were Daniel Ellsberg, Dick Fernandez, Judith Lerner, Staughton Lynd, Dave McReynolds, Marcus Raskin, George Regas, Arthur Waskow, and Cora Weiss. Quite a collection — if any are unfamiliar to you, look them up on the web! Donahue complimented them for figuring out that the war was wrong long before he did and proceeded to ask them useful general questions. Each person got to say something interesting; audience members asked questions; and suddenly it was time for Yarrow to be joined by his daughter and son-in-law for two antiwar songs that I did understand.
            Saturday began with an invocation by Monsignor Ray East, a song by Holly Near, and a welcome from Heather Booth and Marge Tabankin. Then a panel featured ten-minute presentations by Tom Hayden, Wayne Smith (a veteran who told his own story of becoming antiwar "in country"), and former Members of Congress Pat Schroeder and Ron Dellums himself. Each was effective, even eloquent. Comments and questions from the audience filled the rest of the time until 11:15AM. Simultaneous break-out sessions then lasted an hour, on such topics as "How to Teach about Vietnam K-12" (led by Julian Hipkins and me), "The War and the Women's Movement (Heather Booth), and "Vietnam Era Authors and Poets (Jan Barry and Bill Ehrhart).
            After lunch, there were "Simultaneous Mini-Plenaries," such as "Opposing Our Country's Agenda," with Todd Gitlin, David Hawk, Judith LeBlanc, Rosalio Munoz, and Taylor Branch. I attended "American Foreign Policy: From Then To Now," featuring Phyllis Bennis, Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Klare, Larry Korb, and Marilyn Young. It was interesting, but not what I'd hoped for; I wanted to hear Ellsberg, in particular, analyze our adventures in Lebanon, Panama, Iraq, etc., etc. Instead, we got ideas about what we should have done to oppose our militaristic foreign policy.
            Then Tom Hayden offered a reflective, even pensive, summary. He told how the antiwar movement had splintered over small differences, hence didn't accomplish as much as it might have. He issued no clarion call to arms — which might have worked, had he done so — but his remarks were honest and informative.
            In the late afternoon, we walked to the King Memorial. Supposedly we were going to do so via the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which would have been appropriate, but we did not. We should have had a flier to hand out to onlookers, who were appropriately curious. Our fogy status was confirmed when one person collapsed on the walk and others took the bus alternative. To some degree, the weekend was about passing the torch, but an inadequate number of young (or even younger) people attended. Passing the torch requires someone to pass it to. No DC high school students attended. I met no one from Howard, GW, AU, or any other local college. At the King Memorial, Danny Glover presided, along with Julian Bond and others. Back at the church, we enjoyed a dinner of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese food, followed by an evening program that I did not attend.
            A dinner companion commented on the fact that no one had spoken of the sex or drugs that permeated some happenings of the antiwar movement half a century earlier. I saw no sex or drugs at the reunion. (One sticker, "Make Out / Not War," was widely handed out. I took one and wore it, but I had no idea why it was changed from the original, "Make Love / Not War." The weekend was also surprisingly sober in spirit.
            The various fiftieth reunions of the Civil Rights Movement, such as for Freedom Summer last year at Tougaloo College, were at least somewhat triumphant. Although they recognized the continuing injustices in our society, they also took pride in the changes that they had wrought, especially in the South. This peace reunion was much more subdued. Speakers were careful not to praise the peace movement for ending the Vietnam War — credit for that went primarily to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Two speakers did note that Richard Nixon himself said he would have used nuclear weapons against North Vietnam, had it not been for the peace movement and the furor he knew he would trigger.
            There are reasons why peace movement alumni find it harder to congratulate themselves, compared to Civil Rights Movement alumni. Our society has formed a consensus that it is wrong to deny people citizenship, voting rights, jury duty, the use of hospitals and restaurants, etc., based on race. We have not formed a consensus that it is wrong to invade other countries thousands of miles away that pose no threat to our existence. On the contrary, we do it all the time.
            Similarly, our society commemorates on its landscape leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Every city has its Martin Luther King Avenue. Medgar Evers gets an airport in Mississippi; Thurgood Marshall gets one in Maryland. Serious museums treat the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery, Greensboro, and elsewhere. But no major museum treats the peace movement anywhere in the United States.
            Nevertheless, we were right. The Vietnam War was wrong. The United States was wrong to "ask" its young men to travel around the world to "stop Communism" in Vietnam. The war killed almost 60,000 Americans and more than a million Vietnamese. It cost a fortune, imperiling LBJ's "War on Poverty." It also changed how Americans view their government, because as the edifice of lies that U.S. leaders constructed about the war collapsed, Americans' trust in government tumbled as well. It has yet to recover.
            HNN has posted a handout at the conference written by the committee, "Fighting on the Battlefield of Memory: Lessons from the Vietnam War." I understand the key authors were Tom Hayden and David Cortright. Most of its points are both useful and indisputable. I invite other attendees to flesh out this report, here or elsewhere on the web. I also invite readers to get involved in remembering and teaching about Vietnam. We cannot let the Pentagon, with its millions, tell the story of this war and its impact on America, Vietnam, and the world, all by itself.

[1].Quoted in William Appleman Williams, et al., eds., America in Vietnam (New York:  Norton, 1989), p. ix.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

July Trip to Vietnam

Why go to Vietnam for the 20th anniversary of normal relations?

The end the American war in 1975 did not really mean peace for Indochina. Washington imposed a unilateral embargo and tried to diplomatically isolate Hanoi.  The costly war between Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge (aided by China, the US and ASEAN), lasted a decade.  China also invaded Vietnam  to punish it for expelling Pol Pot from Phnom Penh, with high casualties to both countries and great destruction of Vietnamese infrastructure.  

Normalization of US-Vietnam relations in July 1995 by President Clinton was a great step forward for both nations, but also the fruition of post-war efforts by the peace movement and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). 

Today, almost everything is different.  The US is Vietnam's largest export market, second largest source of tourists, a major investor and hosts about 17,000 Vietnamese students, our eighth largest country of origin.  The US and Vietnam are also pulled together by the growing conflict in the South China Sea, a new/old challenge to Vietnam's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  

Ironically while many of us struggled for years to achieve US withdrawal from Indochina, the current challenge is how to encourage positive and strong American engagement, incorporating deeper economic ties, a strategic partnership and expanded humanitarian assistance to victims of Agent Orange, land mines and unexploded ordnance. (See statement here by a delegation of 16 anti-war activists who visited Vietnam in April for the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war.)

If you are potentially interested in going with us and wish to see a detailed itinerary,  please return the form below in the next couple of days to indicate which dates work for you, July 6 to 17 or 12 to 23.  We especially encourage you to bring family members and friends to share personally and directly across generations why Vietnam was so important decades ago and why it still matters in even more complex ways.

The basic cost will be about $1950 double occupancy or $2350 with a single room, plus international air fare.  That includes hotel, breakfast and some group meals. We can assist optional pre-visits or extensions to Cambodia, Laos or Ha Long Bay. 

Goals for the July Trip

I was involved with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia intensively between the end of the war in 1975 and normalization of relations twenty years later.  During that time I visited frequently, bringing groups and working on NGO and academic conferences for the purpose of ending the US embargo, establishing full diplomatic, economic, educational and cultural relations, and addressing the legacies of war.

After President Clinton opened official doors, I refocused on an analogous agenda on Cuba.

Significant progress with Havana, the Pentagon's multi million dollar pro-war Vietnam commemoration project, important anniversaries and new threats to peace in South East Asia have prompted me to find ways to share the Indochina experience.  Visits to Vietnam are as meaningful for veterans of the peace movement as of the military -- and for their children,.

The trip in July will offer moving experiences, diverse conversations, sight-seeing, delicious meals and meetings with Vietnamese government and US embassy officials, business people and staff of NGOs.  Themes to be pursued in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City include:

 a)  Vietnam's history and culture long preceding and separate from the American experience (although some aspects like the 4th to 14th century Champa archeological site we will see in My Son fell victim to US bombing) 

b)  Legacies of the war (Agent Orange, land mines, UXO, destruction of rural communities and traditional life) that are a painful reality for millions of Vietnamese more than forty years later.  (This will include a visit to My Lai, so eloquently recalled by Seymour Hersh in a recent New Yorker magazine article.)  

c)  Vietnam today, its dynamic economic self-transformation and its strong positive relationship with the US on trade, investment, technical cooperation and educational exchange

d)  The link between Vietnam's right to independence and freedom during the American war and the threat posed by China now  (We hope to hold a conference in Danang about the maritime conflict and to visit Ly Son, the part of the contested Paracel Island chain closest to Vietnam.) 
John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Truly unsolicited comments from participants in the April trip:

     Thanks for a truly extraordinary trip.  I knew it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me, but it well exceeded my expectations.  We had a good group to travel with and the itinerary was exceptional.  
  I'm sending money to both Project Renew and the children's school we visited in Danang.  Both were such high quality, I'll be proud to support them.
   Thanks again for the trip and for all of your work on Vietnam.


    I'm so incredibly grateful to you for putting our trip together, for your time, your patience and for your generous spirit.  It was truly a transformative experience -- thank you for including me. 


Expression of Interest in the July Trip

Please copy and paste into your e-mail software, and send to by Wednesday, June 3d.  Use the same address for questions.

Name ____________________________ City/State _________________________

e-mail address ________________________ phone number __________________

___  I am seriously thinking of joining the July trip and would like a copy of the itinerary and a registration form.

My preferred dates are ___ July 6-17   ___ July 12-23    ____ both are OK

I am also interested in visiting   ___ Cambodia   ___ Laos   ___ Ha Long Bay

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ly Son of the Paracel Island Chain

Lý Sơn District
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lý Sơn District
Huyện Lý Sơn

Lý Sơn District
Lý Sơn District
Location of Lý Sơn District in Vietnam
Ly Vinh[1]
 • Total
10 km2 (4 sq mi)
Population (2003)[1]
 • Total
UTC + 7 (UTC+7)
Lý Sơn (About this sound listen), previously known as Cù Lao Ré,[2] is a district in Quảng Ngãi Province, off the South Central Coastof Vietnam.

Geography and geology[edit]
The district covers approximately 9.97 km² of land, on two off-shore volcanic islands in the East Sea, and a few islets. The main island, Lý Sơn (Cù Lao Ré) has three prominent craters, the largest of which is Mount Thoi Loi (Thới Lới). Hydrothermal waters on Lý Sơn provide heat for the local power plant. The secondary island is known as Little Island(Cù Lao Bờ Bãi) and is also well populated.

Remains of the pre-200 C.E. Sa Huỳnh culture have been found on the islands. The Cham used Ly Son as a transhipment base. Xó La well, one of the wells used to provide fresh water for ships, still remains right on the shore of the main island and is still in use.[3] In the 17th century the Nguyễn lords started a colony on the islands from An Vĩnh,Bình Sơn District, in Quảng Ngãi, as part of the activities of the Hoàng Sa Company's development of the Paracel Islands.[4] During the United States involvement in Vietnam, Lý Sơn was the site of a U.S. Navy radar installation. The radar site was used to track shipping along the Vietnamese coast.
The economy was founded on,[4] and remains, primarily based on seafood extraction. Ly Son is a major offshore fishing center with an output of 29,000 tonnes worth VND241.2 billion ($11.4 million) in 2012, accounting for almost one fourth of Quảng Ngãi's total.[5]

Lý Sơn is also known throughout Vietnam for its production of a special variety of 
garlic,[6] although coastal sand mining to support its extensive cultivation has led to significant erosion. In the 21st century Lý Sơn began to develop its tourist industry.
As in other parts of coastal Vietnam[7] whales are important in local mythology and religion. Around one hundred whale skeletons are kept in temples, the largest and most important of which is in Tan Temple in An Hai Commune.[8]According to a local legend, the 200 year old skeleton are the remains of Nam Hai Dong Dinh Dai Vuong (the king of whales), the most powerful whale in the East Sea.[8] Whale skeletons are worshiped and huge funerals are held when a stranded whale is found because they are believed to protect fishers while they are at sea.[8]
Administrative divisions[edit]
There are three communes in Lý Sơn District:
·       An Vĩnh and An Hải on the main island
·       An Bình on Bờ Bãi Island in the north[9]
The district government is located in An Vĩnh.[9]
1.     Jump up to:a b "Districts of Vietnam". Statoids. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
3.     Jump up^ Hardy 2009, 111
4.     Jump up to:a b Monique Chemillier-Gendreau, Sovereignty Over the Paracel and Spratly Islands Kluwer Law International, page 72ISBN 90-411-1381-9. retrieved on 28 April 2010
5.     Jump up^ "Fine weather brings bumper fishing haul"Viet Nam News. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
6.     Jump up^ "Garlic smells sweet to one island" Vietnam Development Gateway, 26 June 2007, accessed 28 April 2010
7.     Jump up^ Why Vietnamese villagers are dragging dead whales inland Adam Bray, CNN (25 February 2010):
8.     Jump up to:a b c The fishermen’s protector on Ly Son Island Saigon Times (6 August 2010):
9.     Jump up to:a b Viet Nam Administrative Atlas. Cartographic Publishing House, Hanoi 2010
·       Hardy, Andrew (2009): "Eaglewood and the Economic History of Champa and Central Vietnam" in Hardy, Andrew et al.: Champa and the Archeology of My Son (Vietnam). NUS Press, Singapore
External links[edit]
·       "Ly Son District Portal" with articles, images, video, news,... to introduction about Ly Son District (Island - Cu Lao Re)
·       "Ly Son People Portal" with articles, images, video, news,... to introduction, connection, trading promotion, tourism, ly son garlic.
·       "Ly Son garlic Portal" introduction, trading promotion ly son garlic.
·       "Ly Son people blog" introduction, news, gallery, video about Ly Son.
·       Ly Son Island
·       With many historical, cultural relics and fascinating tourist attractions, the 10-square-kilometer Ly Son Island in Quang Ngai Province of Vietnam is one of the country’s most amazing corners to explore. Though referred by many as the “fairy island,” it is also known for its vast garlic fields with a pungent aroma, thus, is called as the kingdom of garlic. But that’s not all this island can offer. It cradles a very diverse ecosystem with five mountains, including Thoi Loi, Gieng Tien, Hon Vung, Hon Soi and Hoi Tai, which lures tourists with its mysterious caves, imposing waterfalls, and splendid rivers and lakes. And if you look beyond the mountains are lines of stunning beaches laid with colorful rocks, pebbles and corals.

Among the most noticeable attractions nestled in the island are Hang and Duc Pagodas and An Hai Temple. The Hang Pagoda is a peaceful sanctuary with ancient architecture surrounded by beautiful scenery. It is founded about 400 years ago using a natural cave, is a combination of natural feature and human labor, thus of great value in different ways. It is a popular destination for tourists seeking for relaxation in a magnificent and poetic scenery. The An Hai Village Temple in Dong Hamlet, An Hai Commune, Ly Son Island District was built in the first year of King Minh Mang (1820) in an architectural style of Nguyen Dynasty which was reflected in uniquely carved altars or on the surface of rafters, supports and doors.

Not only accommodating various valuable historical and cultural relics, the Ly Son Island also embraces legends associated with many folk and traditional festivals such as Tet (Vietnam’s new year), boat race, hat boi (traditional Vietnamese opera), fish worshipping, and especially ceremonies to pay homage to solders who died in battles in Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands. But if you are not fascinated enough with its hundreds of cultural and historical relics and diversified architecture, the island has a 374-square-meters museum displaying more than 1,000 documents, photos and artifacts associated with the heroic Hoang Sa and Truong Sa troops. The island also holds a cemetery for the late Hoang Sa soldiers. With that, Ly Son is a living museum.

Many artifacts of Sa Huynh and Cham Cultures were discovered on Ly Son island. The Thien Yana and old ruong houses are evidence for Sa Huynh and Cham’s ancient civilizations. Indeed, artworks and historical tokens can come in many forms. But perhaps Ly Son, with its charm, rich history and entirety, is among the few ones that prove to be a token in itself.

Ly Son Island joins power grid
PM Nguyen Tan Dung (left) talks to residents of Ly Son island district as he initiates the building of a 27km underground cable connecting the district to the national electricity grid. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam
QUANG NGAI (VNS) — Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung initiated the building of a 27km underground cable connecting Ly Son island district in the central province of Quang Ngai to the national electricity grid yesterday.
The project, started in October last year and finished three months ahead of schedule, makes Ly Son the third island district in the country to join the national power grid so far, after Co To in northern Quang Ninh Province and Phu Quoc in southern Kien Giang Province.
Islanders can now enjoy a reliable supply of electricity around the clock, an improvement over six hours a day in the past.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Dung said the project was significant for socio-economic and cultural development in the island district as well as defence and security. He praised the efforts of contractors, workers and relevant agencies to ensure the safety and efficiency of the project and asked authorities in Quang Ngai province, particularly Ly Son, to manage the project effectively, contributing to economic growth on the island and safeguarding national sovereignty over sea and islands.

Cast adrift on Ly Son Island
Ly Son Island, 30km off the coast of the central province of Quang Ngai, is a tranquil destination that can be explored in two days, as Dang Thi Mai Thi and her group recently discovered.
Departed souls: Officials take part in a ceremony to honour the souls of sailors who died during long voyages to the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the Nguyen dynasty in the 17th century.
The group began their trip in Da Nang City on a package tour from Da Nang Beach Travel. A van took them very early in the morning to Quang Ngai’s Sa Ky port, 16km east of downtown Quang Ngai City and a three-hour drive along National Highway 1.
They got on board a 150-seat boat for the hourlong trip to Ly Son Island, which cost VND110,000 (US$5).
“We had to rush a bit in the morning because there is only one ship to Ly Son every day. Tourists have to come to Sa Ky port on time if they don’t want to miss the ship,” Thi said.
“We were lucky because the trip would have been cancelled if the weather was not mild. A strong wind would prevent us from cruising safely,” she said.
One nautical mile away, five mountains form Ly Son Island, of which four are dormant volcanoes.
As soon as the ship docked at Ly Son port, the group was taken to Dai Duong Hotel.
June is the hottest time on the island, so visitors often plan to go in July or August – the best time for fishing – to sample the local seafood at its peak.
Thi’s group landed on the island at noon, in the heat of the midday sun. They slaked their thirst with sugar-cane juice in a stall near the port before checking into their hotel.
A passenger boat docks at Ly Son Island daily. The 150-seat vessel departs
from Sa Ky port in Quang Ngai Province and arrives at Ly Son district in an hour.
“The province is well-known for its sugar-cane. The juice is so sweet and cool and very cheap. A big glass costs just VND5,000 (two US cents) and the juice actually refreshed me,” the 23-year-old said.
The first site the group visited was Hang Pagoda, which was built in the middle of a mountain that was once a volcano. The local people said the pagoda was an ancient Cham structure.
On the top of Thoi Loi Mountain, one of the four volcanoes, local people built a reservoir in a crater to deal with the lack of fresh water in the dry season on the Islands.
“I felt a bit of fear when I stood on the rough rocks in the former volcano crater. The local people constructed concrete paths around the reservoir for tourists,” said Nguyen Thi Le Chi.
Lunch included garlic salad (garlic grows abundantly on the island) and several varieties of sea snail and squid.
The island has 3,000 inhabitants, most of whom make their living from farming garlic and spring onion, and fishing.
The stems and roots of the garlic plant are mixed with pea nuts, herbs and vinegar and served with rice pancakes and fish sauce.
“You should not avoid garlic because of its strong smell. The chefs here create great dishes from it,” said visitor Nguyen Xuan Ha. “Also, garlic salad helps prevent colds.”
Visitors are offered a cup of garlic-soaked wine – a traditional cure for high cholesterol level.
There was not much traffic on the island, so the group decided to explore it by motorbike.
They visited An Hai communal house, and Duc and Am Linh pagodas in the afternoon.
Culinary delight: Ly Son Island, 30km off the coast of Quang Ngai Province, has 3,000 inhabitants,
most of whom make their living from farming garlic and spring onion.
An Hai communal house was built during the reign of King Minh Mang in 1820. It’s the oldest building still preserved on the island, with engraved timber girders and beams.
Am Linh Pagoda was a worshipping place for seamen in the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the Nguyen dynasty, around the 17th century.
The pagoda was built to worship the soul of sailors who died during long voyages to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands.
A museum on the islands displays over 200 ancient documents and 100 exhibits which prove that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands belong to Viet Nam.
In the evening, the group boarded bamboo coracles to go on a diving trip with local fishermen.
“There is not any beach on the islands, but we were advised to snorkel to explore the coral reefs around the islands,” said Nguyen Thanh Ha, a tour group member.
“There are many snails and fishes living in the coral reefs. The water here is so clear and safe for diving.”
At night, an outdoor party with a campfire was held at a fisherman’s house, where islanders flocked to share drinks with visitors.
“We had a big party with fresh seafood. We danced and sang with local people. Of course, they expressed their hospitality by giving us garlic wine until we got drunk,” Ha said.
As the ship leaves early in the morning, travellers must wake up early to get on board in time.
Ha and his friends rushed out to the local market, where they bought dried garlic and spring onion, squid and shrimp as gifts to take home.
The group then went shopping in downtown Quang Ngai and had a lunch of goby – a small fish caught in the Tra River – in a restaurant on the river bank.
“It was a short trip, but we had an interesting experience exploring the island. I hope to stay longer next time,” Thi said.
Da Nang Beach Travel offers a package tour from Da Nang to Ly Son Islands and back. The tour lasts one night and two days and costs VND870,000 each passenger for a 10-member group.

The wonderful Scenery of Ly Son Island
    Only a few people know that Ly Son Island in Quang Ngai Province in Central Vietnam was d from five extinct volcanoes during the prehistoric age. With wonderful scenery left by these volcanoes, the island has now become an alluring destination, attracting a large number of tourists.

Seen from the shore on a fine day, Ly Son Island looks like a pyramid on the sea with its top being the peak of Thoi Loi Mountain. Among five mountains founding on the island, Thoi Loi is a rocky one. After a long time climbing the tortuous path on the mountain, tourists reach the peak of Thoi Loi where they have a panoramic view of the garlic field that looks like a chess-board and an immense blue sea dotted with fishing boats in the distance.

According to the old people in Ly Son, the hollow of the extinct Thoi Son Volcano was formerly a primitive forest of different valuable trees and had abundant fresh water resources which ran at the foot of the mountain to form Chinh Stream with Vietnam travel guide. Then, the forest was totally destroyed and the stream no longer exists. So far, there is only a relic left – Hang (Cave) Pagoda. Due to the sea’s impact on geology for hundreds of years, the layers of rock have been eroded and have formed a cave in the shape of a pagoda.

Unlike Thoi Loi Mountain that has only rocks, Gieng Tien Mountain has a special fertile soil, similar to the Bazan soil in Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands). The locals often use this soil and sand to fertilize the garlic fields. Thanks to these fertilizers, the variety of garlic grown in Ly Son has a special flavour that is hardly known in other places.

Around the crater of Gieng Tien Mountain that is smaller than that of Thoi Loi Mountain is a piece of land where no plants can grow. According to the beliefs of the locals, it is the sacred oil that was used as ash on the graves of soldiers of Kiem Quan Bac Hai Squad who laid down their lives when protecting the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands during the reign of King Minh Mang (1791-1841).

To the east of Gieng Tien Mountain is a strange pagoda, called Duc by locals. Visiting the pagoda, tourists learn a story about the Goddess of Mercy who traveled on Bac Hai Sea to save fishermen in distress. Seeing fishing boats being sunk by storms, she tore her robe into thousands of pieces and threw them into the sea.
Source: VNP