We continue to pass war memorials as we ride. There must be a book about these structures, or one needs to be written, as they are impressively grand and always incorporate enormous sculptures of soldiers and workers in the communist struggle. Apparently, every commune district has at least one, just like how villages and towns in Britain and Australia have war memorials to the fallen from the European wars, saying Less We Forget, on a more modest scale.
In Vietnam there are 11,100 communes meaning there are many of these structures. Surely there must be a Pevsner type survey of the ones worth seeing, what they commemorate and their artistic merits? We discovered that the memorial to the women fighters I’d mentioned before is called Thap Chuong Nga Ba Dong Loc, and is even more poignant than we’d thought. It marks the place where 10 women were killed whilst trying to repair the road on the Ho Chi Min trail. They were filling in a bomb crater and were directly hit by another bomb themselves. Nothing remained of them.
In Vietnam there is a strong tradition of ancestor worship, across all religions, and therefore burial is an important part of this custom, the place to speak with your descendants, to seek advice and to pray for them in the afterlife. For there to be no one to bury, from the 10 women killed, makes the place additionally important.