Tucker in Asia

Monday, June 05, 2006

You may as well call me Peter Fonda....

We have traveled in a full spectrum in the last week from motor scootering our way through rain forest and rice patties around Ninh Binh as part of a biker gang to shopping for tailored silk clothing in Hoi An to the beach of Nha Trang to tagging along with the "Easy Riders" of Dalat. I am not sure how to select a highlight of it all, nearly deserted beaches with the bath-water ocean water is nice but seeing the hard life of the rice workers acts as a reminder of where we are and how different lives Americans lead from the Vietnamese. The beaches are not the real Vietnam, the back roads, the rice, and the people are.

Riding on the back of a motorcycle with Stephane, my "Easy Rider" freelance guide this morning showed us the South Central Highlands livelihood. We saw crops, a waterfall, people and amazing scenery with stories accompanying it all. The climate here is cooler thanks to a little altitude and the surrounding farmed hills make a beautiful spectacle. The area produces lots and lots of flowers and vegetables but also has silk worm farms and coffee farms. Most of the growing areas are small family type farms, there did not seem to be any large plantations. Perhaps the most daunting of things we saw was country side where no trees will grow back because of the napalm bombs and agent orange spread during the "American War." We saw a hill where a U.S. base used to be located. In the 60's during a holiday new year break from the war the Vietcong set out around the base and set booby traps and laid land mines. When the war started again the U.S. wiped out the forest in an effort to get to their base without being killed by the traps. After the war the government tried to re-plant the forest and was successful in some areas but other areas will not grow. Later, when the farmers returned to the area lots of people lost their lives from the land mines. My guide lost two family members who when turning land to plant crops perished by a mine. Interesting war stories....There also remains a peculiar animosity between the Southern Vietnamese and the Northern Vietnamese; and the government seems to favor the Northern Vietnamese.

I guess the only other explanation needed is the clothing. Hoi An is known for its tailors, and they are ubiquitous, so you can't help looking and the purchasing more clothes than you can possibly fit into your bag. Suits are the big ticket item to have made but since I really don't know what I would do with a suit (like I'm getting a job or something?) I didn't order one. Instead I got some dress pants (Italian Kashmir) and shirts and ties and a coat....Enough loot to necessitate a 6 kilo (between the two of us) box being sent across the Pacific. I figure that if I bought everything at Marshall Fields it would probably cost over 600 bucks and I got it all for 125, I think I got a helluvadeal.


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