Sunday, May 20, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries Part II

Tyler took on the herculean task of describing our five days with the Easy Rider crew. He did a fantastic job. I just wanted to share a few more images and thoughts from that part of our journey.

Highlands Taxis

Highlands Taxi Drivers

At one village, we stopped to take a closer look at a rice field. These two boys in a "Highlands taxi" stopped to watch us with some interest. I was somewhat fascinated by these "vehicles." They look like a wagon connected to a lawn mower, and you see them transporting people, animals, agricultural products--usually some combination of all three.

The driver looks about 13, but I've learned that might well mean he's 18 or 19. Young people in Vietnam seem to look extraordinarily young for a long time. A group of giggling girls I took for 13 were 18. Children who look too young to be walking around alone are six or seven. They were nice enough to let us take their picture and expressed some embarrassment and pride at the result.

At the same time, we proved photo-worthy, when I'm guessing what was a local tourist (nice clothes, camera) took a picture of us looking at the rice. I imagine now there's a family in Saigon or Hanoi looking through a family member's pictures saying, "Look! White people looking at rice! How funny!"

Rice Harvest

Rice drying in the sun

Rice threshing machine

It was rice harvest time in the Highlands during our motorbike tour, and everywhere we went, we saw golden sheets of rice in the sun--sometimes on tarps, sometimes on concrete areas in front of a house, sometimes even just directly on the pavement. We also saw many portable threshing machines for separating the grains from the grass, which is then used to feed livestock. Basically, people shove the harvested grass and grain into the machine, the hay flies out one side, and the rice falls down onto the ground and is gathered into sacks. While in Vietnam, we've managed to see the entire process of rice production: growing in the field, being harvested, dried, threshed, husked and made into rice noodles.

Reminders of War

Bombed out church, built by the French, left standing

Regional War Memorial

Another Regional War Memorial

As in the US, the war in Vietnam (referred to as the "American War" or "American Interference") is still very present. Almost every town we went through had some kind of large monument, listing those killed during that time. Public murals and statues in large roundabouts also seemed to always reference the difficult past the Vietnamese have had, fighting the Chinese, the French, and Americans. However, we never experienced any animosity as Americans.

Experiencing it as Americans--though Americans too young to have been directly involved--was a strange and interesting experience. Sometimes when riding through the jungle or being on a boat in the Mekong, I would have a strange sense of deja vu, only to realize that some of the landscape feels so familiar because of movies about the Vietnam War. Horrible things happened here, but we also have the awareness of the wounds that are still sometimes close to the surface for Americans today. I don't think I've sorted all my thoughts about it completely. I guess war is just terrible and unfortunate, for both sides/countries/people involved.


Uncle Ho on a billboard

Vietnamese Flag paraphenalia

One of the many posters about voting in the national election on May 20th

Ho Chi Minh and red banners with the flag's yellow star or communist hammer and sickle are omniopresent. In some villages, every single house was sporting a flag. Every major thoroughfare was filled with banners, posters and billboards, exhorting people to vote, only have one or two children, progress towards modernity, and many other things I could only guess at as we rode by. The stylized images of people--workers, soldiers, scientists, minority people--fascinated me, and they were everywhere. I wish I could have gotten many more photos of them. It seems like they must have one Communist-era artist slaving away somewhere making all of these.

A Few More Images

There are 50+ different minority groups in the Highlands, and many of them build meeting houses similar to this, with soaring roofs that seem to reach at least two stories into the sky.

Water buffalo, wallowing in the mud. According to Dao, they work hard when they're cool, but they're useless when hot.

This picture just captures what much of the journey looked like--wide open skies, green fields on other side, clouds that mostly threatened to rain but only did on our first and last days....

1 comment:

littlemonstercallum said...

I've only briefly glimpsed through at the photos of your latest posts but Vietnam looks amazing. I know when my sister visited she was taken away by it.

Hope your having a wonderful time.