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Old 05-09-2013, 03:57 PM   #38
stanegoli OP
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Joined: Dec 2005
Location: Portland OR
Oddometer: 236
Day 15

This was the midway point of our 30-day trip.

After a refreshing shower our hosts provided a nice breakfast. I took a walk with Zach in the rice paddies across the road from our hosts house and we got our shoes really muddy. I found these structures in the middle of one paddy. They appeared to designed to attract or breed birds (the Vietnamese love to keep caged colorful birds of many descriptions - you see them everywhere - and the bamboo cages they hand make are really neat).

We packed up and took off with Xuan heading to different villages and locations in the area - all inhabited by the White Thai minority group.

At one village we walked around for about an hour and got to marvel at the very basic but effective irrigation system the villagers have created to water the crops in their fields. They have built an elaborate system of waterwheels in the river flowing past the village - each wheel brings the water up out of the river and dumps it into pipes which then flow into the fields. Everything is constructed of bamboo, there is no metal. The wheel is entirely bamboo. The transport pipes are bamboo lengths cut in half lengthwise to resemble rain gutters, which are then connected on to the next length forming an elaborate system. There were at least a dozen waterwheels in the small area we viewed.

The water is drawn into bamboo tubes tied to the waterwheel, and as the wheel rotates and each tube reaches the apex the water is drawn out by gravity and dumps into the bamboo pipes. You can see the water running out of the top tube in this photo.

As always the locals seemed to know Xuan and there was a lot of greeting and chatting. This man was clearly a war veteran and told us how much he loved Ho Chi Minh:

We rode around the region for about three hours and then headed off in the direction of the Ho Chi Minh trail where we were going to part company with Xuan and continue on our journey south.

We passed this guy headed to market with his bananas:

That is an appropriate photo to initiate this digression:

The Motorcycle as delivery vehicle in Vietnam

From the moment one arrives in Vietnam and until one departs there is the ubiquitous sight of motorcycles being used to deliver every type of product or item one can imagine. The motorcycle is the dominant form of transport so it only figures it would be the dominant form of delivery vehicle. The Vietnamese are incredibly skilled at putting huge, ungainly loads on bikes and somehow tying them down in a secure and balanced fashion. This is no small feat considering how large, bulky and heavy some of these items are. Eventually one does not pay too much attention to what at first is very novel. But as Zach and I rode the length of the country we made a list of the more unusual or memorable items we saw being transported. This list is by no means comprehensive but we had a lot of fun, and many good laughs, compiling it. I use the term "man" or "woman" generically as in any single case it could be either:

1. Banana delivery man. See photo above. His load is not remarkably large, just happened to be the one we photographed. We saw instances of way more bananas than this in one load.

2.Egg Man. A huge stack of filled egg trays (the open 36 egg carton variety) one above the other behind and to the sides of the rider. And if the load tips???

3. Buddha Man. Well actually three Buddha men, each on a bike. Three large Buddhas per bike, one to each side and one to the rear. Each Buddha in a metal compartment, part of a single large metal frame.

4. Ming Vase Man. Two huge "ming" type vases, about 6 feet tall, in metal frames to the sides of the bike.

5. Motorcycle tube men. Three men, each on a bike, and each carrying hundreds and hundreds of motorcycle tire tubes loaded in every conceivable, and inconceivable, place on the bike.

5. 3 Pig Man (we actually saw a lot of these). Three large live pigs, each one in a separate metal tube. We also saw the same tubes filled with dogs, cows (yes, cows), goats.....

6. Dead Pig Man. Two dead pigs just slung over the front of the bike at the feet of the rider. No cages required.

7. Cardboard people. Many of these. People go around collecting large quantities of flattened cardboard boxes and stack them impossible high on the bike.

8. Chicken man. Lots of these two. Large cages holding many, many chickens.

9. 40 foot pole man. Delivering at an industrial construction area near Cam Pha, carrying steel rebar. It was so long, the front and rear of the rebar were just inches off the ground.

10. Closet man. Yes a guy riding along with a large wooden closet roped to the back of his bike. He even had things tied down atop the closet.

11. Motorcycle man. Two guys on one bike, the passenger holding a motorcycle!

12. Jackfruit man. Just like banana man but far more impressive because jackfruit are really large. Huge cages to the sides and back of the bike brimful with jackfruit.

Oh it goes on and on. The largest number of people we saw on a single motorcycle was five - two adults and three kids.

Back to Day 15 report:

We reached the Ho Chi Minh Trail and parted company with Xuan. We headed south, he continued on eastward back to Ninh Binh. We had a lot of mileage to cover so we put the hammer down and rode hard. The HCM Trail is the old route the Vietcong used during the American War to transport troops and supplies south. It was not actually a single road but a network of roads, paths and trails. Now it has two main sections, the eastern and western legs that are nicely paved roads in good condition. Aside from the coastal Hwy 1 this is the main north/south (actually the only) inland route in Vietnam. The scenery remained very nice but we did notice areas where the vegetation was stunted and the hills scarred - apparently the long term effects of Agent Orange still evident.

We made good time and reached our destination, the town of Tan Ky mid-afternoon.

Total distance for the day - 240 kms (150 miles)
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