Vietnam
November 2004
The One-Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, constructed by Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1049, destroyed in 1954 during the French War, and then rebuilt in 1955.
No trip to Hanoi would be complete without a visit to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum.
The presidential palace in Hanoi.
The small lakeside house in Hanoi in which Ho Chi Minh spent most of his adult life.
A typical street scene in Hanoi, a city of 3.5 million in which motorbikes are the predominant mode of transportation.
One of the tourist boats on Halong Bay. Our little band, consisting of a guide, a couple from Illinois, and me, had a boat like this to ourselves for the day, complete with crew, cook, and waiters.
My traveling companions, cruising Halong Bay: guide Minh, and Dick and Alla Rusz.
The families that make their living fishing Halong Bay live in floating villages of houseboats.
A family of Halong Bay fishers, heading for work.
Alla making a purchase from two women of the Dao tribe, near Sa Pa, in the hill country near the Chinese border, northwest of Hanoi. Each of the tribes in the area has its own distinctive style of dress - even in a crowd, one can easily tell who belongs to which tribe.
A pair of bathers in a village of the Black Hmong tribe, beneath a suspension foot bridge.
A family from the Flower Hmong tribe.
A young Flower Hmong woman.
A market scene in Hoi An, a coastal village in central Vietnam, near Danang. These kinds of market scenes are repeated in every village and city in the country.
A Chinese temple in Hoi An. The ethnic Chinese, usually a minority in any given town, often built such temples, which did double-duty, both for worship and as a social gathering place.
Part of the Hoi An fishing fleet along the waterfront. The truck in the background is typical. These hoodless, often cabless beasts, leftovers from the era of Soviet influence, have a top speed of about 25 mph, belch smoke, and make a racket, but they still do the bulk of the heavy short hauling in Vietnam.
A Hoi An fisherman casts his net.
We stayed at the Victoria Hoi An Resort, a lovely beachfront hotel. It's a few miles from town, so the hotel provides shuttle service in this 1950s vintage Renault van.
If just one person wants to head into town, the van stays put, and one of these motorcycles is pressed into service. What a way to make an entrance!
The Noon Gate, the main entrance to the Imperial City in Hue. Hue, on the Perfume River, not far from the coast of central Vietnam, was the capital from 1802 until 1945.
The walled Imperial City measures 2.5 km on each side, and once contained dozens of buildings. Most, sadly, were destroyed during the Tet offensive in 1968. Some reconstruction has been undertaken, but Vietnam is still a poor country, and other needs are more pressing.
The Gate of Humanity, on the west side of the Imperial City in Hue.
The grounds of the tomb of Tu Duc, Nguyen emperor of Vietnam from 1847 to 1883. He was the last emperor of independent Vietnam - subsequent emperors found themselves increasingly under the thumbs of the French colonial rulers.
A stone figure guards the tomb of Tu Duc.
Part of the extensive grounds around the tomb of Minh Mang, Nguyen emperor of Vietnam from 1820 to 1841.
The tomb of Minh Mang, one of the loveliest spots in the Hue area.
A group of stone figures attend the tomb of Khai Dinh, Nguyen emperor of Vietnam from 1916 to 1925.
This is what happened to me every time I went walking around alone in a Vietnamese town. Tall Caucasians are still something of an oddity, and the kids aren't the least bit shy about gathering around: "Hello! Where you from? What you name?" They're all as cute as bugs, but won't stand still for a picture!
While Saigon is a large, modern city, with over eight million inhabitants, most commerce is still conducted out of single-room shops that are open to the street, with the wares in full, exuberant display.
A friendly descendant of the Vietcong gave us a tour of the extensive tunnel complex in Cu Chi, where his predecessors managed to avoid the Americans for years, despite being very close to a major U.S. military base, just 40 miles from Saigon. The tunnels are sized for Vietnamese - for a large American, crawling through them is quite a challenge.
Your tax dollars at work.
The highways and byways of Vietnam are chaotic, to say the least. There are a few cars, going 70 mph, dozens of minivans, going 60 mph, thousands of motorbikes, going 20-40 mph, depending upon how big they are, hundreds of bicycles, going about 5 mph, and a handful of ox carts like this, going less than 1 mph. They all share the same roads, usually just two-laners.
The main temple of the Cao Dai religion, in Tay Ninh, a day trip from Saigon. In the Mekong Delta region south of Saigon, some 70% of the locals are Cao Dai followers. The faith, invented in the early 20th Century, combines elements of almost every other major religion, worshipping the Buddha, Christ, Confucius, Mohammed, Vishnu, and Lao Tse, among others.
The noontime service in the Cao Dai temple.
The three principle saints of the Cao Dai faith: (from the left) Chinese President Dr. Sun Yat-sen, French novelist Victor Hugo, and Vietnamese poet Nguyen Binh Khiem. The French inscription reads, "Dieu et Humanité, Amour et Justice." I am not making this up.
When an adherent of Cao Dai shuffles off this mortal coil, he's taken out in style.
We stopped at a restaurant in My Tho, in the Mekong Delta, and they had a small zoo next door. One of the monkeys had a little one in tow, and he was small enough to squeeze out through the bars of the cage, and climb on the visitors.
A cloth merchant's shop in the market area of My Tho, in the Mekong Delta.
Three women in the My Tho market demonstrate how to overload a motorbike.
An unusually elaborate Buddhist temple in My Tho.
A busy dock on the waterfront in Can Tho, on the main southern branch of the Mekong River.
On a little tributary of the Mekong, a woman harvests greens of some description.
A woman takes her produce to the floating market.
One small corner of the vast floating market in Can Tho. The pole above the boat has samples of the produce available from this particular vendor. The market involves dozens and dozens of such boats, as well as scores of the smaller boats of the farmers who bring their produce to the market every morning.
Many of the residents of the Mekong Delta live near or actually on the river. Notice, however, that virtually every house has a TV antenna.