Monday, October 31, 2005

Vietnam Roads

Taken at a bridge in Hue, as drivers stop for the light, as the sun has just about set. This is a pretty representative photo of the drivers on a Vietnamese road --the average person travels by low-powered motorcycle. Men, women, children, three or four-year old children--they travel by low-powered motorcycle. Almost always without a helmet.

Once the light changes, off they go.

An endless flow of bikes. See man waving in foreground.

Hue's Angels. I love the faces in this picture.

Here, a bike is used to transport a large plant, or is it two plants? in Saigon. You'd be amazed at what they transport on these little bikes. On two separate occasions, I saw people hauling refrigerators on them. Not full-size Western refrigerators, but not those little college dorm refrigerators either.

Live pigs transported by motorbike, somewhere between Hanoi and Halong Bay. These two bike riders are wearing helmets, an absolute rarity.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hue -- Perfume River

The Perfume River flows through Hue. It rained most of the morning our last day here. These were taken from the hotel room.

Hue: The Citadel

Hue was the capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, when the country was ruled by the Nguyen Dynasty. It was built from 1802 to 1845, and was modeled on China's Forbidden City.

The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army took over Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968. They committed many summary executions and other large-scale atrocities against civilians. They took over the Citadel. The US got them out of the there, but huge portions of this complex were destroyed in the process.

There is much that is beautiful, and much that are ruins, in this vast place.

Buildings once stood here.

On the Road from Da Nang to Hue

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We pass the beach at Da Nang . It would have been quite close to this spot where US Marines made a beach landing at Da Nang in 1965, which is what really ramped up the Vietnam War ( which Vietnamese call " the American War "

The drive to from Da Nang to Hue was through a mountain road. Here, we stopped at a scenic lookout before we went on the highest portion of the road. I was interested in what was behind the lookout-- large concrete fortifications built by the French, smaller ones in the foreground built by the Americans.

Mountain road, with plenty of switchbacks, no guard rail, and a long way down ( this picture does not do justice ) Would not want to try this road in the rain.

Stopping for lunch on the way to Hue. The garlic shrimp and rice lunch here was good, but I ordered a can of Huda beer with it. I would say it tasted like rat piss, but this would be an insult to the rat population of central Vietnam.

I was seated at the table in the foreground. From the left, clockwise, Rob from New Zealand, Valerie and David from Cairns, Australia, Michele from Sydney by way of Adelaide. I sat in the chair between Rob and Michele. You can see the ( excellent ) can of Heineken that came after the Huda. And my dish of discarded shrimp shells. Much, much better.

Schoolkids in Vietnam

Did not see schoolbuses in Vietnam. Kids, even in the early grades, walk to school, traveling in groups. This means a long walk for kids in the country, which must not be too much fun when the monsoon kicks in.

The kids wear school uniforms ( most of the time anyway ) , which were always neat. Some of the older girls wear flowing white dresses.

All the young kids looked happy and confident, very willing to be photographed. They would often approach you practicing their school English " Hello! How are you? Goodbye! ", sometimes in one breath.

They were great. If they are the future of this country, the future is looking pretty good.

About to cross the street in Hanoi.

Oh, I am going to be so famous!

Boy Gives the V sign

Waving to the passing Westerner in the cyclo

Friday, October 28, 2005

Marble Mountain

Again, a rainy day, and the many steps to the top of Marble Mountain can be slippery. Glad we decided to go. The view from the top was nice.

But then if you followed the path into a cave you saw these holes from above.

And a Buddhist shrine inside.

It was a beautiful, spiritual place. Here, the " Lady Buddha ".

A relatively new Buddha, out of doors, to the left as you walk back to the rough-cut marble stairs back down.

China Beach

On the way out of Hoi An, stopped at China Beach, a place that had been very popular with US servicemen. If the weather had been good, we would have gone swimming there. But it was kind of wet, so that didn't happen. It's a long, fairly unspoiled bit of beach. If I come back to Vietnam, I will try to go visit this place again.

I spent a few days looking for the right floppy hat. Here, I wear the one I found in Hoi An.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hoi An

Hoi An is an compact port city, where the Chinese, Japanese, and European traders have come to call over the centuries.

Many of the old buildings survive. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It lives on tourism now, and has lots of good small restaurants. Trivia fact: karaoke is banned here. The authorities feel the loud noise would take away from the spirit of the city.

Woman in Hoi An market street

Woman selling whistles

Buddhist altar in a restaurant

Oldest House in Hoi An

Mango Rooms Restaurant. When Duc was a child, he was taken away from Vietnam as one of the " Boat People ". He lived in Texas, Mexico and other places, and developed a love for Latin music and food. He moved back to Vietnam as an adult, and owns the Mango Rooms restaurant. Mango Rooms is a brightly-colored restaurant serving Asian food, mostly fish, with a Latin flair. Latin music plays on the sound system. Duc's a happy guy.

Japanese Bridge

No one is quite sure of the exact age of this bridge, but it was probably constructed in the early years of the Edo Shogunate (the early 17th century). The covered bridge, also known as the Pagoda Bridge, was built by Japanese craftsmen who were part of a larger community of Japanese merchants active in Hoi An. It connected the Japanese and Chinese sections of town.

Art Store, Owner

Beware the Snake

Oh, he's just a little fella. A few of us chose to play with the python when visiting " Unicorn Island " in the Mekong Delta.

Thanks, Stuart, for taking the photo and e-mailing it to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Saigon-Dalat Flight, Dalat, Out of Dalat

On the Vietnam Airlines prop plane from Tan Sa Nhut Airport ( Saigon ) to Dalat. Close that damned cabin door.

Bye, Saigon. Hope to see you again.

Nearing Dalat. Dalat is in the central highlands, in the southern half of the country. . It is a higher elevation than the surrounding lands, and is cooler. The soil is rich , which allows the Dalat area to produce the best vegetables in the country. The lower part of this muddy river almost looks like a map of Vietnam.

At tiny Dalat Airport, the Vietnam Airlines prop plane that got us there. We took three Vietnam Airlines flights on this type of plane. All flights were on time, and at least as comfortable as a US economy flight. I'd fly one of these props over an Embraer jet anyday. Vietnam Airlines is a reasonably big airline. They fly to Japan and Paris, and they will soon fly to California. When we landed at Hanoi, we passed one of their new 767s. After our little prop , the Boeing looked immense.

Zen Buddhist Temple near Dalat

Altar at Zen Buddhist Temple

Lake by Zen Buddhist Temple. This picture, of a beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees, could be from Italy or upstate New York. But it's Vietnam.

Our group.
Standing- Michele ( Sydney ) , Tom ( Brooklyn ) , Emma ( Perth ), Linda ( Sydney ) , Rob ( New Zealand ) , Bev ( Perth ) , Peta ( London ) , Lynn ( Australia ) , Stuart ( London ) , Valerie and David ( Cairns )
Cathy ( London, from Galicia, Spain ) and Meroe ( London )

So, how did we get from the Zen Buddhist temple to Dalat City proper? By a recently-built ( by an Austrian company ) gondola, of course.

Gondola ride high, quiet, fun


Dalat Market. Filled with the most wonderful familiar and not-familiar fruits and vegetables

Outside Dalat, on the way to Nha Trang

Kid selling stuff at a stopping point on the highway between Dalat and Nha Trang. The plastic container on his shoulder has cold sodas and beer. I bought a Coke from him. Behind him, David stretches and checks out the valley.