mpressions of Vietnam


February 17 - May 15, 2006


Moving forests of deep green kumquat trees dotted with ripe orange fuit; swaying swathes of peach branches in delicate bloom. Streams of bicylces, motorscooters, and motorcycles each with some kind of tree or branch attached precariously to the back. Rivers of them carrying the traditional new year decoration from the market to home.


Children in blue and white school uniform, boys in baseball hats, girls in ao dais riding bicycles. Women in conical straw hats, bamboo pole slung over one shoulder carrying two baskets of wares to sell, they make any square of sidewalk or pavement their store, squatting down and arranging their produce in elegant piles on flat woven baskets. Young women riding motorcycles with gangster-style handkerchiefs over their noses and elegant long evening gloves on their arms, all to protect them from pollution and sun. Tribal women in brightly-colored costumes with ruddy cheeks and smiling faces, babies strapped to their backs as they tend their mountain-side fields of corn. Village men in surplus army green still sporting flak helmets as if the war had ended only yesterday.


Rivers and mountains, range upon range of green-clad mountains, palm-fringed beaches beaten by pounding surf. Eucalyptus, palm and pine trees; rice paddies and tea bushes. Pastel-colored temples, regimented graveyards for the communist war dead. Yellow-painted colonial-era buildings.


Boat-shaped French-style bread, spring rolls wrapped in lettuce, fresh mint sprigs, chili sauce, cau lau, grilled pork, noodles.

This is Vietnam!

Copyright Jan Bates 2001