Friday, 30 May 2008

Vietnam - A few more days on the back of a bike

Vietnam's father of poetry - Nguyen Du

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Rice, lots and lots of rice

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At the mouth of Phong Nha cave

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Inside the cave. Can you see the ghosts?

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Mood Lighting

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The soldier to war, assured never to return.  His wife cuts his wrist and blood drips into the wine filled cask held aloft by the child.  The family will drink this as a tribute to his soul.

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Rescued and released

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Looking north for a lost father.  The DMZ.

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Inside Hue Citadel

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A Chinchilla in Vietnam, who woulda thought?

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Sunday, 25 May 2008

When 'Chance' gets involved in VIetnam - My Top 5

5: Arriving on the scene of an accident involving 2 mopeds. One had 2 passengers and the other 3! 2 people were killed and the mourning started before the bodies were removed. The air was heavy with burning incense. It was a sobering reminder that Vietnam's roads can be quite dangerous.

4: Meeting a cop who had just filmed what a bunch of local tribes people did to an elephant. The elephant was used to carry tourists around as a money earner. The elephant killed his 'master'. Knowing that actively killing the elephant would be illegal, the villagers decided the best thing to do was starve the creature to death instead. Once the animal had died, villagers took to it with chain saws and hacked it to pieces for food. The film footage (on his mobile) of the act was horrendous.

3: Drinking with locals and a man goes off and gets his pet monkey. A monkey who loved crackers in fact.

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2: Ever wonder what it is like to 'pay off' a cop? I don't have to because we had to do it not once but twice! To the underpaid provincial cop, the roadblock opens up a world of opportunity for extorting unsuspecting motorists. After the bribe was paid, the policemen apologised to me for the delay. Are you serious?

1: Sitting at a roadside village bar and the area gets hit by a swarm of flying termites. Not to miss an opportunity, the a woman working there hurriedly collected these litter critters, which would soon end up as a deep fried snack food. I was more than happy to help her collect the little beasties. Mmm, delicious.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Easy Riding in Vietnam - the first 3 days in pictures

The smoky hills and lush green countryside west of Hanoi

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Whatever your poison, it's unlikely it comes in Scorpion flavour.  A hangover is guaranteed.

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Yes, he did stop his moped in the middle of the road. And yes, he did beg me to take his picture. He would be so proud.

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Showing Scotland what Green really is.

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Has anyone seen my chopsticks?

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Heading home after a long day at work in the fields.

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Processing tobacco the traditional way.

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The famous water pipe of the tobacco farmer.  I hit it, coughed my lungs out, and they all promptly burst out laughing. 

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Pulling a bird in Vietnam.

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At the birthplace of the revered Ho Chi Minh. P5070068

Sunday, 11 May 2008

And that was Hanoi...

And I didn't even go to Ha Long Bay.  Some would say I am crazy, and others would say I am just plain stupid.  But quite frankly, if your having a great time already, why question it.  In Hanoi,  people watching really is king.  From the the street vendors to the cyclos ferrying their chubby tourist clients, to the moped passengers who think it is a good idea to get on a different moped, in motion I might add. 

Sit back and drink some traditional Bia Hoi with the locals and watch the people go by.  It really is that simple to forget all the worries of the world.

And this is a city whose people, at least on the surface, seem content.  The social understanding between Hanoi's inhabitants seems uncomplicated and to the point.  And we in the west might think of places like Vietnam as being at the other end of the earth, (culturally rather than geographically) but not so.  People are simply people.  A walk round Hoan Kiem lake will tell you everything you need to know about the people of Hanoi. There are young couples stealing a kiss while their parents aren't there to scold them, Ice cream vendors doing their best to tempt you, joggers of all ages panting with breath hoping against hope they don't have to go round again and the occasional  squabble round a small table as cards and cash trade hands quickly.  This is pure, unadulterated, uncomplicated life.

Fellows travellers will say 'you better get your tourist hat on a bit'. 

So, get yourself off to see 'Uncle Ho' as he is affectionately known to the Vietnamese.  You'll find him in his resting place within the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.  The father of the revolution who ousted the French is toasted as this nation's creator. He pushed out the colonial oppressors, but also created the socialist  ideology alive in Vietnam today.

Or, head off to the Temple of Literature, where you can find peace within its gardens and pagodas, but also pay your respects to the great teacher himself, Confucius.

I am a fan of history, but far more a fan of people, today.  They are always the most exciting, and in Hanoi you will undoubtedly, find ample excitement. Walk round the Old Quarter, visit Don Xaun Market, eat ice cream on the shore of the lake, jump on a moped, and drink a beer with the locals.

And if you must, visit Ha Long Bay. I can't wait to see your snaps.