While visiting Viet Nam, I was reading “The House on Dream Street” by an American author who spent a few years living in Ha noi , learning the language etc. in the early part of the ’90’s. The name of the St. was chosen as the title of Dana Sachs book because at the time most of the bikes were Honda Dreams and the street she lived on had a lot of bike mechanics working on it. I started to look at the makes of bikes and was rewarded by finding a lot of Honda Dreams still being driven.
Here is a “Dream”
We had organised our trip through a travel agent here in Taiwan which meant we had a car and driver available to us while we were traveling around. He drove us to Tam Coc and one of the towns we passed through on the 11/2hr journey was obviously a coal mining town as everywhere was black, the soil at the road side was black, the people were black, even the greenery was black.We saw people with piles of coal bricks in wheelbarrows and their were what appeared to be slag heaps. it was very sobering to drive through this place which looked like it had just stepped out of a Margaret Gaskel novel (she wrote about workers in Manchester and the surrounding areas in the early to mid 1800’s.) in the year 2008! The north of Viet Nam is an industrial area as it has natural resources, mainly coal, this is what the French wanted to get their hands on when they were in Viet Nam or Tonkin as the north was then known.
The trip on the river at tam Coc was beautiful but you certainly need a sense of humour and endurance to sit on a small rowing boat for 2 hours. You are rowed by a man or more usually a woman who quite often will row with their feet. See picture.
Once you have gone through all the caves (3)and reached the end of the journey their are floating “shops”waiting to offer you refreshments for your selves and the rower, at your expense. On the return journey an attempt will be made to sell you embroidered items. Our boat picked up a woman en route and she proceeded to show me pictures of her family engaged in embroidering the items she then implored me to buy. I found the whole thing charming and of course bought something, it is never enough but living in Asia I am used to always being asked to buy more so I just say “no more money” and smile and that causes a laugh but usually they stop badgering. I can see that some people may get annoyed at the creativeness of the enterprise but you truly can always say no. You just have to be hard. One thing is sure they will not starve here.
Talking of starving, one thing we observed while on this boat trip were these strange red things clinging to rice stalks and boats just above the water line. Turns out they are the eggs of the Apple Snail and have been posing an ever increasing threat to rice field yield over the last two decades after being introduced from South America by snail farmers in the ’80’s. although snail farming was banned in Viet Nam in 1992 they have been increasing in spite of every effort to stop them. If you are interested in finding out more check out http://www.applesnail.net/
These are the eggs of the apple snail
The Local Garden centre at Tam Coc!
This is the embroidery lady
This guy is plowing before planting his rice