some things i saw in vietnam but did not photograph

I’ve been back in Singapore for a week now. Since I returned, I’ve worked five 16-hour days, and my culture shock has recovered enough to enable me to spend S$82 on two rounds of three drinks each (Thumper last night with Thavy and Shelly).

Last week I posted my pictures from Bangkok, Laos and Vietnam, but there were some notable things I was not able to photgraph…

  1. I saw a young boy lay his motorbike down on a winding mountain road. He had swerved to avoid our bus, which was barrelling uphill and rounding a curve in the wrong lane. As the boy swerved and braked, his motorbike went down. Had he been going just a little faster or a little closer to the road’s edge, he would have spun off the steep embankment and tumbled perhaps 50 meters to the valley floor. We asked our bus driver to stop to see if the boy needed any help, but the driver dismissed us and forged on. Out the back window, I watched the boy stand up and limp around his fallen motorbike, inspecting the damage. Before we had passed completely out of site, I was surprised to see two or three other motorbikes drive by the boy without slowing down at all.
  2. We had been en route from Sapa to Bac Ha – two villages in the mountains of north Vietnam – near the Chinese border. In Sapa, I had signed up for a trek to several villages of the Black Hmong and Red Dzao tribes. The day was foggy and muddy, and stupidly I had brought only a pair of Tsubo loafers. They were completely caked with mud at the end of the day and looked so rediculous that I’m sorry not to have taken a picture.
  3. Whenever I found myself travelling through the Vietnam countryside – by motorbike, bicycle or bus – children along the way would stop and wave. When I was able to hear them, the were often shouting “hello?”, inflected as a question – like someone answering a telephone.
  4. In the city of Hoi An, which sits between a river and the sea, I saw many different kinds of boats. I took pictures of some of these, but one I didn’t capture was a fishing boat made of bamboo strips woven into a perfectly round bowl perhaps two-and-a-half meters in diameter. I’m not sure how someone would pilot a round boat like this with any efficiency, but every day I could see them at the edge of the horizon, floating far out on the South China Sea. The strangest boats I saw, however, were tiny row boats on the river. Except for their small size, it was not the boats themselves but the rowing that was strange. The rowers had strapped the oars to their feet, leaving their hands free to lay out their fishing nets.
  5. The last thing I wish I’d taken more pictures of was the amazing food I had over and over again. Of course there was the cha ca I already described, but there were delicious spring rolls, french pastries, steaming noodle soups, strange new fruits and all kinds of colourful fresh chillis and herbs.

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