This is the place where I escaped out of Vietnam some thirty years ago when I was a little boy. I was a city boy in district 11, HCMC but I spent most of my preteen years by the sea in Rạch Giá, Bến Tre, & Vũng Tàu. Sea was the only open door to the outside world after the fall of Saigon. I sat by the shore every sunset waiting for a chance to escape. I made 3 attempts to escape Vietnam and Vũng Tàu was my final successful attempt. Was it the sound of the sea that makes me believe in fear or was it the ocean wave that gives me the courage. There's only one way to define courage and fear in this case. You either float or sink...so think or swim.
Every time I came back to visit this place, the landscape might have changed...but the memories haven't. I still remembered the winding jungle path that took me to ashore; where I was asked to strip naked and put my clothes sealed in a plastic bag. I was instructed to swim to the fishing boat await from afar. The darkness of that night made everything blurry. The moonlight behind the fishing boat that made the entire edge of it lit in the darkness and casting the shadow on the water. Thank goodness the ocean was calm that night. But too calm was scary too...while my arms stroking the water I can hear the sound of the gentle waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. It seems that it took forever to paddle myself to the boat. Everything after that...I blacked it all out. My goal was to get on that boat.
After 30 some years later, no matter how frightening the trip was and what went through my mind that fateful night, I never wanted to let go of those memories. I am here today, standing next to the Vũng Tàu lighthouse. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath then exhaled slowly...looking down the Jesus Christ's Statue on top of the small mountain (núi Nhỏ Vũng Tàu) on the other side. The view is spectacular. This place is so beautiful and so unforgettable to me. I am seeing the transformation of my country for the better days to come. The economic prosperity in Vietnam is awesome and it has surpassed my expectation. I am holding onto this old memory for what? Maybe this is the time to let it go.
I was one of the Vietnamese boat people escaped out of Vietnam during the 1980s. I was one of the few lucky ones made it out alive. Many have perished in the sea...freedom isn't free for those who didn't make it. They have paid the ultimate price. When the time is right, I will write about my journey from Vũng Tàu to America.