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Vietnam - Saigon

These are rubber trees. The whole rubber crop concept was one of the things that people were "requisitioned" for during the French Colonial days. Whole villages were forced to give up their traditional farming lives to plant rubber trees for French companies like Michelin. Oddly enough, during the war the rubber plantations were one of the things shown to grunts in boot camp to explain why it was so vitally important to go over there and fight.
These are cashew trees. I never even knew the danged things grew on trees, so I guess you learn something new every day.
This is what I call a logging truck with sleeper. If you don't "get it", it means you're not a trucker. I didn't even realize how funny it was when I took it. I was just took the photo because the cycling was over, we were riding the bus into Saigon, I was bored, and I'm an old lumberjack so I couldn't resist. I didn't notice the distinctly Vietnamese style sleeper cab until much later.
This was a lacquer-ware factory we toured in Saigon. This is the process used to make the lacquered wood panels I mentioned way back in Hanoi. It's a lot of work. Everything is made from little tiny picees, all of which are cut and pasted by hand.
While I was in Saigon, they were shooting a movie called "The Quiet American". It's set in the 50s, and they shot quite a bit of stuff here about a block from my hotel.
Here you have it. The Three Musketeers in the Mekong Delta.
This is the candy factory where they're making the extremely addictive candy I mentioned. The woman by the fan put the goop in a long mold to form it into the strips you see under the fan. Then she cuts it into pieces with that machete, and then they're hand wrapped. For those of you back home, I did buy you some... I just ate it all before I got it mailed :(  Next time I go to Vietnam, I promise I'll send some back.

Photo Courtesy Et Tienne

Etienne took this photo in the Mekong delta, and it's the best photo of an Ao Dai either of us got on the trip. The Ao Dai  is a distinctly Vietnamese tradition. The communists banned them from 1975 until a few years ago, but they're coming back now.

Photo Courtesy Et Tienne

Here we have the bike gang with the statue of Uncle Ho. A lot of people think "Uncle Ho" is just a derogatory term dreamed up by G.I.s to refer to HCM, but it's a real Vietnamese term. One of HCM's supposed roles was as favorite uncle to all children.
One of the museums in Saigon had the strangest collection of Buddha statues I've seen. They depict the Buddha in all the stages of his life, or maybe the various incarnations. I'm not sure. This is the Ascetic Buddha. Early in his life, the Buddha tried traditional Indian asceticism to gain enlightenment. Asceticism consist of starving yourself half to death waiting for either enlightenment or hallucinations that can masquerade as enlightenment. During this phase he came to the enlightened view that starving yourself to death was a bad idea, so I guess it worked.
I can't quite remember which incarnations these are.
This is Mindy and Emily's English class. They're on the lower right. I went there and talked to the class for an hour, and since I drug along my bike, computer and digital camera we had plenty to talk about.
Fairly typical roundabout in Saigon. This one is a sort of landmark used as a baseline for directions in this region. The expats call it the Circle of Death for some strange reason. I'm not sure why, as it seemed perfectly ordinary to me.
Rush hour in Saigon. Now this was fun.
These guys are part of the Semester At Sea program I mentioned in the main page. A very cool program if I ever heard one. I met up with them at an Internet Cafe.
This shows how most road construction is done in Vietnam, e.g. the hard way. The truck like carrier device you see is also very common. They're made by strapping a homemade front end onto a moto-bike back end. You see these all over the place in Saigon, and this load wouldn't be unheard of in rush hour Saigon traffic. The moto-bikes are usually a whopping 50-100 ccs. In the page on traffic, I mentioned the whoever flinches first stops rule. I always flinch first when I see one of these.
This a shot in the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This was an extensive tunnel network about 30 miles outside of Saigon that the Viet Cong lived in and did guerilla warfare from for years. The U.S. spent an inordinate amount of effort trying to close them down, but failed until they started very large scale carpet bombing in the early 70s. These have been considerably enlarged, because if not for that I couldn't get my large American size frame into it.
I spent a very nice weekend at the small beach town of Vung Tau, which is about 2 hours by boat from Saigon. Here's what it looks like at night.