Xin Chào from the Việt Nam/China border,
Pác Bó is a small village with a big place in Việtnamese history. This is where Hồ Chí Minh crossed the border in 1941 to re-enter his homeland after 30 years abroad. In three different places, we see signs indicating the Chinese border (Border Belt). It’s a beautiful place, it turns out. The limestone mountains are swathed in thick rainforest and the green river (Suối Lê Nin – guess where that name came from) is very inviting on a warm day (so inviting, Linda takes a dunk halfway through our walk!).
There’s a famous photo of the great man writing at his desk of stone. He hid out in a cave just a short climb up the hill. The cave is something of a pilgrimage for Việtnamese people of today wanting to see where the great man stayed in those formative years of the nation. There are no fewer than 30 electric buggies ready to transport visitors up to the walking loop. The weekend sees big numbers doing the pilgrimage.
Keep moving for security.
Hộ Chí Minh himself only stayed here for three weeks before feeling the need to move on to avoid detection. (This is something he did, by the way, for the next 20 years, even as President.) The beauty of the place must have been difficult to leave behind. It’s a measure of the selflessness of the man that is almost certainly not lost on local visitors. He only stayed for three weeks because there was important work to do.
It was here that the Việt Minh came into existence. It was the genesis of the revolution. Hồ Chí Minh galvanised a nation to the cause. It’s an interesting place for its part in that movement.
Doubters need to remember that the Việt Minh and Hồ Chí Minh were tapping into a deep vein of resentment towards the French. Resistance to the French – and their indirect rule – had been a common theme in Việt Nam for many years. And doubters need also know that the revolution was not imposed by the Việt Minh, running roughshod over the will of the people.
In August of 1945, there were dozens of separate popular uprisings in dozens of towns the length of the country, all the way down to Cà Mau in the southern part of the Mekong Delta. The calls to stands of resistance fell on willing ears. These protests and displays of support all gave authority to Hồ Chí Minh to declare independence on 2 September of the same year. He was undoubtedly speaking on behalf of a strong movement of people. (Even though the French refused to recognise this declaration, this is still commemorated each year as the beginning of the republic.)
Cao Bằng is the biggest town in the province and the jumping-off point for both Pác Bó and the stupendous waterfall called Ban Giốc, on the Chinese border in a different valley. The limestone cave at Ngườm Ngao is a marvel in itself. From a natural standpoint, both valleys are beautiful. From a historical standpoint, Pác Bó is a monument to human perseverance.
Hẹn gặp lại from Cao Bằng
PS photo shows Uncle Ho’s writing table with water around the base; he was there during winter when rains are much lower.