By the time Matt and I reach Ben Tre city on provincial roads, it's late afternoon. We have time to visit a park honoring "heroic women of the revolution" and take pictures of local people enjoying a stroll.
I had been in and out of the Mekong Delta cities of My Tho and Ben Tre several times during the Vietnam War. But my most disturbing experiences there followed Viet Cong attacks on the two cities in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 31, 1968.
Rule number one for foreign correspondents: If you want to know what's going on, get out of the cities.
On April 28, I meet with a man who was one of the top Viet Cong spies during the Vietnam war. had known Pham Xuan An when he worked as a Time magazine correspondent.
Before leaving for Vietnam, I had proposed an idea to a colleague. I’d never paid any formal respect to the Vietnamese soldiers who’d lost their lives, either on the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese side or on the Communist side.
As Matt and I start talking with people around the city, my rudimentary knowledge of the Vietnamese language begins to revive. A small phrase book helps me out.
"My son Matt and I decide it's pointless to continue to trudge on foot under a blazing sun if we want to get a feel for the sprawling city. We opt for taxis and, on one or two occasions, the backseats of motorbikes..."
"First the heat hits you - nearly 98 degrees Fahrenheit at midday. The airport concrete blasts back at you like a furnace. After more than two decades' absence, I'd forgotten how hot it can get in Saigon. Then the traffic assails you. Hundreds of Vietnamese on motorbikes moving in seemingly chaotic and opposing streams..."
Reporter Pema Ngodup has been in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu since a few days after the tsunami struck. He says things have improved for people living in the hardest-hit coastal towns, including Nagappattinam, one of the worst affected. Aid is getting through, debris is being cleared, and the district's children have returned to school.
One of India's most famous actors, Suresh Oberoi, has traveled to southern India with his family and spiritual teacher to join the relief effort in the wake of the devastating tsunami of Dec. 26. Pema Ngodup caught up with him the town of Katlu, Tamil Nadu state, where thousands of families in the area have been left with nothing. In this blog entry, Oberoi talks to Pema about what drove him to lend a hand.
Pema Ngodup has been traveling through coastal towns in Tamil Nadu that were affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami. Pema spoke with Mr. Zoepa, a Tibetan living in the southernmost town of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and got a first person account of what happened that day.
Indian officials say they have launched the biggest relief effort in the country's history in the state of Tamil Nadu where estimates are now putting the death toll from last week's tsunami at 9,500. Nearly 6,000 people are reported still missing. International aid groups are criticizing the Indian government's refusal to allow non-governmental agencies to assist in devastated areas.